Tom Birmingham Joins Pioneer as Distinguished Sr Fellow in Education

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Was a principal author of 1993 Massachusetts Education Reform Act

BOSTON – Pioneer Institute is pleased to announce the appointment of former Massachusetts Senate President Tom Birmingham as a Distinguished Senior Fellow in Education. President Birmingham, a lifelong Democrat from Chelsea, was a principal author of Massachusetts’ landmark 1993 Education Reform Act, which led to historic gains in Bay State student achievement.

By 2005, the commonwealth became the first state whose students posted the top scores in the nation at every grade level and each subject tested on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as “the nation’s report card.”  After enactment of the 1993 education reform law, Massachusetts SAT scores rose for 13 consecutive years.  The commonwealth’s students also proved themselves to be internationally competitive in 2007 math and science testing, tying for best in the world in eighth-grade science.

“It’s no exaggeration to say that between 1993 and 2002 no figure in Massachusetts did more than Tom Birmingham to craft law and hold firm to 1993’s ‘grand bargain’ of state funding increases coupled with high academic standards, MCAS testing, charter schools, and accountability for all,” said Pioneer’s executive director, Jim Stergios. “We’re honored that such a giant of state education policy has joined us.”

Mr. Birmingham was elected to the Massachusetts State Senate in 1991, where he served as co-chair of the Joint Committee on Education while working on the Education Reform Act.  He later chaired the Senate Committee on Ways and Means and served as Senate President.

While Birmingham and Pioneer hold divergent positions on a number of other policy issues, there is significant alignment in education policy.

“Pioneer has always impressed me with its receptivity to differing views, as well as respecting varied opinions and ideas about public policy,” Birmingham said. “And Pioneer’s sponsorship of numerous public events and research papers always seems to reflect a deep commitment to healthy debate and the free exchange of ideas that’s so vital for our democracy.”

Before Birmingham entered politics he spent 12 years as a union-side labor lawyer. Throughout his career he has had close and deep relationships with teachers unions and organized labor.

“It is said that ‘politics makes for strange bedfellows’ but there should be nothing strange about people working together who share a passionate commitment to high standards and expectations for students, schools, and state funding for education,” said Birmingham.

“Since the early 1990s when I worked for Boston University in Chelsea, I’ve long admired his intelligence, integrity, and independence,” said Jamie Gass, director of the Center for School Reform at Pioneer. “If anyone can claim the mantle of ‘Horace Mann of the 20th century’ it’s Tom Birmingham.”

Mr. Birmingham graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School and is a Rhodes Scholar.


Pioneer Institute is an independent, non-partisan, privately funded research organization that seeks to improve the quality of life in Massachusetts through civic discourse and intellectually rigorous, data-driven public policy solutions based on free market principles, individual liberty and responsibility, and the ideal of effective, limited and accountable government.