Turning up the heat on MCAS

I don’t know how or why the Gov’s folks think moving away from the MCAS is something they are going to get any buy-in on.  If you want to push it to the end of the school year, as many teachers have long asked–sure, that makes sense.  If you want to limit the number of days a school can take to give the exam–sure, makes sense.  But the attempt to sell this as a question of whether the MCAS is “a” versus “the” requirement is too lawyerly.  In a previous post, I went through the Worcester T&G’s take on the Gov’s plan.  Take a look at Jon Keller’s blog “Deval’s MCAS Folly”.  Tough words from Keller: And if he thinks the […]

What’s all this then about… the Worcester T&G

The June 5 T&G makes one more point worth mentioning.  As Monty Python used to say, What’s all this then about… free community colleges?  As the editorial notes, the idea “disappointingly fails to address more immediate concerns.”  As the piece notes, Community colleges play a vital role as a portal into post-secondary education — including four-year colleges and technical programs — for nontraditional students, limited-English speakers and others. While state funding may have made community colleges beyond the means of some, doesn’t everyone agree that we have a lot of work to do to ensure that CCs are effective delivery systems for skills needed in the market place?  I mean, a financial services firm, to remain unnamed, has a wonderful relationship […]

Whatever you do say nothing

…when you talk about you know what. The above line is from an old Irish song (full lyrics below), mocking some unspeakable truth that can’t be related in polite company. I thought of it today reading about the travails of John Hynes who had the audacity to say the following, as an explanation for his plan to open a private school as part of a major development in the Seaport: Unfortunately, 200 to 300 young families leave the city annually because they don’t want to send their kids to private school, can’t get into the public school of choice, or don’t want their 7-year-old spending two hours traveling to a private school, so they move to the suburbs (Quoted in […]

Anybody have an education bandaid?

The education announcement was long on desire, but its lack of detail and, um, how to get it done (sometimes known as an implementation plan) is buying the Governor more static.  Check out the June 5 editorial in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, which makes three points: Conspicuously absent from his presentation, however, were a price tag for the sweeping expansion he envisions and an action plan for overcoming resistance by unions, school administrators and taxpayers to various aspects of his education plan. A decade and a half after enactment of the landmark education reform law, the No. 1 standing of Massachusetts students nationwide has vindicated the “grand bargain” that underlies the effort’s success: a major infusion of funding accompanied by measurable standards and accountability for results. […]

Biotech vs. Precision Plastics

Good play on the radio and in the print media subsequent to our piece in the Herald giving Pioneer’s take on the billion-dollar biotech bonanza, excerpted below: We all want to attract and grow biotech companies. [But] why not focus on financial services, which employs 180,000, or precision plastics, a large employer in Worcester and Springfield? [Why] not focus on the small business sector as a whole, which creates many times more jobs than biotech. Those jobs start people up the economic ladder – and stay in Massachusetts. The only way to grow and retain jobs and broad prosperity is to improve the business climate by addressing areas of competitive disadvantage like unemployment insurance, permitting, health care and energy costs. Massachusetts has the […]

Teach to the test? By all means, says Tom Birmingham

As thousands of students languish on charter school and METCO’s waiting lists, the state education apparatus (including a former Commissioner of Education, former Board of Ed chairman, and former co-chair of the Committee on Education) is attacking what they think is wrong with our schools: MCAS testing. Fortunately, former Senate President (and eternal champion of better schools and common sense) Tom Birmingham will have none of that. To cite the State House News article above: …[Birmingham] called the phrase “teaching to the test” an unfair pejorative because the skills assessed by the test are universally necessary. “If you aren’t literate and numerate, I think the other subjects are going to be lost on you anyway,” he said. “It’s not like […]

How Much Have Business Taxes Increased?

Upon release of the Governor’s budget, the issue of business taxes came to the fore. A coalition of business groups claimed that taxes had increased by $1 billion over the past few years. The administration, a bit snarkily (but with creative use of technology), replied that these claims were outrageous. A tip of the pen to Blue Mass Group as the source for these documents. (Curious why a release attributed to the Governor’s Office only shows up on that site? I am too.) However, we’ve got a new, unimpeachable source of data to referee these claims — the Commonwealth’s Official Statement. (Another tip of the pen– to A Healthy Blog for figuring out how to post this publicly). It details […]

Tooting My Own Horn

Ripped from today’s headlines: “I think there’s certainly a tremendous amount of vision in the education plan, but I approach the financing side of it with a great deal of trepidation,” said Steve Poftak, research director for the Pioneer Institute, a conservative think tank. “I think it’s going to be tremendously difficult to come up with the funds for each one of these initiatives.”

Too Much Innovation from the Public Sector?

Have you seen the logo for the 2012 Olympics in London? It appears they dropped the original submission. Also, the rollout presentation is triggering seizures. The organizers of the event have, rather bravely but perversely, opened up their website for individuals to design their own logos. Many of which are substantially better than the one that was chosen. The BBC also has been soliciting its patrons for new designs. The third one in the gallery is my favorite. Oh, and did we mention that the organizing committee paid 400,000 pounds for a consulting group to develop the chosen design?

The Dog That Never Barked

With apologies to Sherlock Holmes, today’s Steve Bailey column on the potential expansion of the Boston Common Parking Garage contains a reference to “a recent study by a state commission that concluded Boston could continue to support two convention centers”. The study (and the reference) are interesting for a couple of reasons. This study was produced with state funds, yet its never been released in its entirety to the public. The commission that produced it never voted on its contents, nor is there any record of them meeting in the year before it was released. And only one commission member appeared at the press conference releasing the document. We have requested (again) a copy of the report in its entirety […]

You are Fired!!??

Submerged three paragraphs down in the Globe’s “New England in Brief” section is this little nugget: Two top state officials — Registrar of Motor Vehicles Anne L. Collins and MassHighway Commissioner Luisa Paiewonsky…are back on the job, after being fired Thursday…Top sources in the Patrick administration said the mistake was the result of a mix-up in communication with the governor’s office; they said that the administration is considering whether Collins and Paiewonsky will remain in place.

Deed restrictions, indeed

According to Commonwealth Magazine’s 2007 spring edition, the Patrick administration is a receptive audience for Pioneer’s policy paper, Housing Programs in Weak Market Neighborhoods: Developing the Right Tools for Urban Revitalization, written by Peter Gagliardi. The report details how well-meaning state policies may actually hurt the revitalization of poorer communities. The study finds that most state programs are intended to ensure affordability in the state’s heated housing markets. In neighborhoods with weak housing markets, vacant properties, abandoned buildings, and aging infrastructure, these programs are counterproductive: restricting homeowners’ equity, discouraging the sale of redeveloped properties and concentrating poverty. The good press is encouraging. Much work remains to get the right set of policy tools in place for urban revitalization. Pioneer continues […]

Traitors In Our Midst

Pioneer is a think tank dedicated to the work of making Massachusetts a better place to live. So, it’s with a heavy heart that we open today’s paper and learn the sordid truth about one of our beloved colleagues: Charles Chieppo, a senior fellow at the Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research, while conceding that the Yankees are “so pathetic this year,” points out that the current squad is not the first underperforming Yankees team in history. Chieppo first became a Yankees fan in 1966, when they finished last in the American League.

Baker-Levy Smackdown, Part Two

Paul Levy runs Beth Israel, an academic medical center (and a good blog in his spare time). Charlie Baker runs Harvard Pilgrim, one of the state’s largest health insurers. They’ve chatted online from time to time and their latest exchange covers a few of the hot topics in healthcare. Charlie notes that people in Massachusetts use academic medical centers (read as higher cost providers) disproportionately more than other states. And that several of these centers are aggressively expanding. Paul responds that many of these centers are effectively neighborhood hospitals, that many people perceive them as providing higher levels of care, and that there is not enough good quality, current data available.  He’s right, but we’d point to our 2004 report […]

Who will improve our health care blues?

Today’s Globe editorial lays out the health care riffs of the Democratic presidential bluesmasters, noting some pretty big refrains: $90 to $120 billion for John “Pretty Boy” Edwards and $50 to $65 billion for “Sweet Talk” Barack Obama. Seems everyone’s in love with the Massachusetts mandate. Edwards, the Globe reports, would require that everyone obtain health insurance, a national version of the individual mandate that takes effect in Massachusetts July 1. Businesses would have to offer insurance or make contributions (amount not specified) so workers could get it on their own. When I hear riffs like these, it makes me want to run, or to stay in tune, uh, go “down to the station, suitcase in my hand.” I have […]