Pioneer = conservative, liberal or libertarian?

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As you probably know, has kindly invited me to blog on their website regarding how to move our state and country forward on education. It’s called Rock the Schoolhouse, and I’m pleased to have the opportunity.

As you might expect, several commenters ask about Pioneer, and often they ask if this is a conservative, a liberal, libertarian organization or some fudge among the three. Such was the query today from “Abrahamson”. I had posted a blog noting that elected officials who don’t support school choice are often the products of school choice or private schools. Abrahamson queried me on two points:

(1) The conservatives always preach that the government is not supposed to guarantee equality, that those who work hard can thrive in the free enterprise system. But in this case, when it advances an agenda, you want government to be the great equalizer.

Abrahamson also asks

(2) The Pioneer Institute seems to bill itself as neither liberal nor conservative. Is it politically neutral?

Wikipedia, a much-maligned source, gives what I consider a good description of the Pioneer Institute and its conservative roots and philosophy… I respectfully ask if there is anything in it with which you disagree. Thanks.

On (1), education since the time of Jefferson was considered a great equalizer. A rich liberal arts education could allow rich and poor to make their way in a free society, which was understood to be anchored in a free enterprise system. Horace Mann and so many others argued successfully that there was a need to ensure that all kids got access to a great education. No one can guarantee results, but we should ensure that kids can all reach their potential. Our duty on that score is in the MA Constitution. And I agree with that.

On (2), our founding chair, Pete Peters, is conservative, an incredibly lively, focused, and open minded person, and enormously optimistic about the ability of public discourse to drive a reasonable policy result. The Institute bears his stamp in its drive to seek frugal but effective government. We do not believe that regulations should be done away with tout court; in fact, it might interest you to know that we worked hard in the 1990s to establish regulations around charter schools. We did so because charters are public schools, and use public dollars. The result of harnessing a market approach with responsible regulations is that Massachusetts has, on the whole, outstanding charter schools. Some other states cannot make that boast (their charters resemble, more or less, the district schools).

Pioneer is a data-driven organization and interested in what works. We explore the application of market approaches to policy because we would be stupid to ignore the past 200-300 years of human progress and the flowering of free civil societies in the world.

We have no opinion on social issues. We support no political party (and I think you will recognize some members of both parties in the answers above).

Dear Abrahamson, I trust that provides some additional clarity on Pio.