COVID-19 Roundup from Pioneer: COVID & Air Conditioning; NEW: PPP Loan Tracker; COVID Nursing Home Task Force; Hubwonk: Fixing Foster Care; UMass’ Unique Re-opening Plans & more!

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Pioneer staff share their top picks for COVID-19 stories highlighting useful resources, best practices, and questions we should be asking our public and private sector leaders. We hope you are staying safe, and we welcome your thoughts; you can always reach out to us via email: pioneer@pioneerinstitute.org.

 

Our Top Picks for COVID-19 Pandemic News:

William Smith, Visiting Fellow, Life Sciences: Here’s an update on the race for a vaccine. Also, is air conditioning spreading the virus in the South?

Jim Stergios, Executive Director: Kudos to the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority – this is so smart and, ahem, flush-full of ideas!

Michael Walker, Senior Fellow on Government Data Transparency: Everything you need to know about PPP Loans received in Massachusetts! In addition to Pioneer’s COVID MapCOVID Testing Tracker, and Long Term Care Facility Tracker, we are pleased to introduce our new PPP Loan Tracker. Now you can view Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) loans by recipient, lender, location, industry, and loan range. According to data from the Small Business Administration, 18,177 Massachusetts small businesses received PPP loans, which the companies claim retained 738,613 jobs. This latest tool is part of Pioneer’s initiative to advance transparency regarding public funds.

Barbara Anthony, Senior Fellow in Healthcare, Mary Z. Connaughton, Director of Government Transparency, and Andrew Mikula, Research Assistant, recently co-authored an Open Letter offering detailed, specific recommendations on infection control and preparedness in eldercare facilities, to Massachusetts’ future COVID-19 health equity task force. Read coverage (and an editorial) in The Boston Globe.  Watch: Barbara talked to Chris Lovett of BNN News about Pioneer’s recommendations.

Nina Weiss, Roger Perry Transprency Intern, is encouraged by the UMass system’s approach to reopening in the fall, and why it makes sense for its very different campuses to chart their own distinct paths. Margaret Smith, another Roger Perry Transparency Intern, shared ideas on safely bringing back youth soccer.

Pioneer recently lauched a new hotline where the public can log violations of Open Meeting Laws, especially those that may be a result of relaxed standards due to COVID.

 

Questions for Our Public & Private Sector Leaders:

Joe Selvaggi, Host, Hubwonk: This week, I talked with Josh Archambault, Pioneer Senior Fellow in Healthcare, about how to reform our foster care system, especially as cases are expected to surge after COVID. The Massachusetts legislature is taking up a bill to improve accountability measures at the Department of Children and Families. Also, read Josh’s commentary in USA Today, co-authored with Naomi Schaefer Riley, on how online services, training and data can strengthen the system.

Jamie Gass, Pioneer’s Education Policy Director: On the latest episode of “The Learning Curve” podcast, co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talked with Pulitzer Prize winning history professor emeritus Gordon Wood, who puts the American founding in perspective as we celebrate the nation’s birthday during a time of social unrest.

Also: COVID did not stop the Supreme Court from issuing a favorable decision last week in the landmark school choice case, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, and Pioneer Institute, which filed amici briefs (cited in Justice Alito’s concurring opinion) in the case, could not be more pleased. Read our Public Statement, and listen to our podcast interview with the lead plaintiff, Kendra Espinoza, and her attorney Erica Smith, from the Institute for Justice.

 

Do YOU have interesting questions and/or articles to share with us? Please email us, or message us through our social media channels below!

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Get Our COVID-19 News, Tips & Resources!

Study: Graduated Income Tax Proponents Rely on Analyses That Exclude the Vast Majority Of “Millionaires” to Argue Their Case

Advocates for a state constitutional amendment that would apply a 4 percent surtax to households with annual earnings of more than $1 million rely heavily on the assumption that these proposed taxes will have little impact on the mobility of high earners. They cite analyses by Cornell University Associate Professor Cristobal Young, which exclude the vast majority of millionaires, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute.

Hoover Institution’s Dr. Eric Hanushek on COVID-19, K-12 Learning Loss, & Economic Impact

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This week on “The Learning Curve," Gerard and Cara talk with Dr. Eric Hanushek, the Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. They discuss his research, cited by The Wall Street Journal, on learning loss due to the pandemic, especially among poor, minority, and rural students, and its impact on skills and earnings.

UK Classics Scholar Kathryn Tempest on Cicero, Brutus, & the Death of Caesar

This week on “The Learning Curve," Gerard and Cara talk with Dr. Kathryn Tempest, a Reader in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Roehampton in London, UK, and author of Cicero: Politics and Persuasion in Ancient Rome and Brutus: The Noble Conspirator. They discuss the historical, civic, and moral lessons political leaders, educators, and schoolchildren today can learn by studying the Roman Republic and the lives of key figures from that era such as Cicero and Brutus.

Pioneer Institute’s 2021 Government Transparency Resolutions: Sunshine Week Edition

As it does each year, Pioneer shares the resolutions it hopes state leaders will adopt to bring government actions into better focus and invigorate our democracy with heightened public engagement. As the late Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis noted, “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.”

Traffic Strikes Back: New Transportation Strategies for Post-Pandemic Prosperity

Host Joe Selvaggi talks with Chris Dempsey, Director of Transportation for Massachusetts, about road and mass transit innovations that could address traffic challenges in a high-growth, post-pandemic economy.

Report Contrasts State Government and Private Sector Employment Changes During Pandemic

Massachusetts state government employment has been virtually flat during COVID-19 even as employment in the state’s private sector workforce remains nearly 10 percent below pre-pandemic levels, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute. The study, “Public vs. Private Employment in Massachusetts: A Tale of Two Pandemics,” questions whether it makes sense to shield public agencies from last year’s recession at the expense of taxpayers.

Best-Selling, Netflix Author Loung Ung On Surviving Pol Pot’s Killing Fields

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This week on “The Learning Curve," Gerard and Cara talk with Loung Ung, a human-rights activist; the author of the bestselling books First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers, Lucky Child, and Lulu in the Sky; and a co-screenwriter of the 2017 Netflix Original Movie, First They Killed My Father. Ms. Ung shares her experiences living through genocide under Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979, which resulted in the deaths of nearly a quarter of Cambodia's population. 

Post-Pandemic Prospects: Tech Leaders’ Prescription for Preserving a Healthy Economy

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Host Joe Selvaggi talks with Chris Anderson, President of the Massachusetts High Technology Council, about the reasons why Massachusetts has a thriving tech sector, what challenges his members have faced in the pandemic, and what he sees as the most prudent path toward future prosperity in the commonwealth.

American Federation for Children’s Tommy Schultz on School Choice & Edu Federalism

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This week on “The Learning Curve," Gerard and Cara talk with Tommy Schultz, CEO-elect of the American Federation for Children (AFC). They discuss how COVID-19 school closures have increased the interest in alternatives to public schools, and what AFC's polling shows on shifts in attitudes toward school choice options in both urban and rural communities.

Key Madison Park Program Lags Other State Voc-Techs, but Shows Signs of Improvement

The co-operative education program at Boston’s Madison Park Technical Vocational High School, which places students in paid positions with local employers, lags far behind other Massachusetts vocational-technical schools in terms of both placements and number of employer contacts.  But with the school as a whole beginning to improve after years of turmoil, the co-op is also showing promising signs, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute.