Pioneer Institute

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Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research
Founder(s) Lovett C. Peters
Established 1988
Chairman Stephen D. Fantone
Executive Director Jim Stergios
Staff 9
Budget Revenue: $2,204,323
Expenses: $1,616,241
(FYE September 2012)[1]
Address 185 Devonshire Street, Suite 1101, Boston, Massachusetts 02110

Pioneer Institute is an independent, non-partisan, privately funded research organization founded in Boston in 1988 by Lovett C. Peters. Pioneer's stated mission is to improve the quality of life in Massachusetts and beyond 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. Pioneer Institute engages in a range of advocacy efforts, including publishing white papers, conducting media advocacy campaigns and holding events.

Pioneer conducts research and advocacy in the area of education reform. In the 1990s, Pioneer was a leading champion of charter schools and standards-based education, key elements of the state’s landmark Education Reform Act.[2] The Institute created a fellowship program to train charter school entrepreneurs, which in 2003 became a separate non-profit organization, the Building Excellent School Foundation, which today trains charter operators around the nation.[3] In 2006, Pioneer established the Center for School Reform, which promotes choice, competition and high-quality academic curricula in the public school system.

The Institute also focuses on high-quality, affordable health care, with a particular focus on the Commonwealth’s 2006 health care reform as well as containing the cost of Medicaid and other programs. The Institute also focuses on job and business creation; and limited and effective state and local government. Its "good government" efforts have included welfare reform, streamlining regulation, and the mass transit system; currently, its focuses are on public pensions, collective bargaining, public finance, and transparency of information. The Institute’s national Better Government Competition is a grassroots citizens’ ideas contest aimed at addressing key challenges to state and local governments.

Pioneer outsources almost all of its research to field experts external to the organization. The Institute itself serves as a strategic marketing firm, which establishes a handful of core areas of priority, commissions research, and markets the results to the general public, key constituencies, and the media.

The Institute is governed by a Board of Directors from Massachusetts and run by Jim Stergios, the executive director.

Policy Centers[edit]

Pioneer Institute has four policy centers:

Center for School Reform[edit]

The stated purpose of Pioneer's Center for School Reform is to increase the educational options available to families, drive system-wide administrative reform, and promote high-quality academic standards and accountability in public education. The Center for School Reform carries out its agenda through academic-quality research, strategic placement of opinion pieces, and numerous public forums featuring high-profile keynote speakers and panelists.

The Center’s stated goals are as follows:

  • Oppose the nationalization of K-12 education policy, especially on standards and testing. Massachusetts' best-in-nation K-12 academic standards were central to the state's rise on national and international metrics. The state's adoption of national standards weakens the quality of academic content in Massachusetts' classrooms and lessens the state's ability to innovate and improve.
  • Support full implementation of the 1993 landmark education law and high-quality U.S. history instruction by adding a related MCAS graduation requirement. In the state's original plan for MCAS, U.S. History was included as a requirement and was supposed to be implemented for the class of 2012. The current administration has indefinitely postponed the implementation of US history MCAS.
  • Advance a portfolio of public school choice options (charter schools, autonomous vocational-technical schools, and inter district choice) as well as private school options. Achievement data demonstrate that students excel in charter schools, regional vocational-technical schools, and interdistrict choice programs. The data also show that through tax credit strategies more children could take advantage of affordable, excellent private school options.
  • Expand digital learning opportunities in Massachusetts. States across the country are expanding high-quality, accountable virtual learning opportunities. While Massachusetts' 2010 education law allows for the expansion of virtual learning, the state's education department has promulgated highly restrictive regulations limiting such innovations.

The director of education programs is Jamie Gass.

Center for Health Care Solutions[edit]

The stated purpose of the Center for Health Care Solutions is to explore market-based reforms to rein in the cost and improve the quality of care in Massachusetts. The Center’s stated goals are as follows:

  • Refocus the Massachusetts conversation about health care costs away from government- imposed solutions toward market-based state reforms. Few consumer-driven health insurance plans offer good value in Massachusetts due to government restrictions. Pioneer seeks to advance affordable innovative insurance products and greater consumer choice.
  • Drive public discourse on the need for a federal waiver allowing Massachusetts’ Medicaid program to be innovative and cost conscious. Deep reforms of publicly funded health care programs require federal waivers of current rules. Pioneer will push the state to seek such waivers in order to gain flexibility and room to innovate.
  • Present a strong consumer perspective as the state considers a dramatic overhaul of health care payments. Conventional wisdom on Beacon Hill is that costs can only be contained through a drastic move from fee-for-service reimbursements to mandated capitation, global payments, and blunt price controls. Pioneer believes real solutions require a consumer perspective.
  • Support tort reforms that will prove cost effective, ensure accountability, and help retain medical talent in Massachusetts. With malpractice cases taking years to wind through the courts and the real threat of litigation, 83 percent of Bay State doctors admit to practicing defensive medicine. The result is well over a billion in additional costs and the loss of young medical talent.

The director of education programs is Josh Archambault.

Center for Better Government[edit]

The stated purpose of the Center for Better Government promotes competitive delivery of public services, elimination of unnecessary regulation, and a focus on core government functions. The Center’s stated goals are as follows:

  • Advance pension reforms that provide fair and sustainable retirement support. Our current pension system has large unfunded liabilities and provides incentives that are very different from the private sector. A reformed pension system would limit unfunded liabilities, provide benefits consistent with private sector plans, and offer incentives to attract a qualified state workforce.
  • Promote radical transparency of public information by giving direct access to government spending data and documents. Massachusetts taxpayers deserve a thorough account of how tax dollars are spent. They need to know how controversial decisions are made. Pioneer provides on-line data analysis tools and policy leadership to increase government transparency.
  • Encourage performance measurement and the adoption of best practices in state and local government. Goal setting and performance measurement should be the cornerstones of public accountability. Too many public entities fail to do either, or provide either to the public. Pioneer's focus in 2012-13 is on local governments and the state's transportation bureaucracy.
  • Advance competitive contracting of public services, when the quality of the service can be improved and the cost lowered. Just as competition has driven innovation and lowered costs in the private sector, the public sector can benefit from competition to provide public services.

As part of its better government efforts, the Institute has released a number of on-line transparency and data analysis tools.

  • Pioneer has given citizens access to spending data through, a searchable database of every payment by the state over the last three fiscal years, by agency, account, payment type, and recipient.
  • Through, parents can learn about their local public schools and school district, review their performance, and compare them with other schools from across Massachusetts. Data include state assessment scores, dropout rates, and other important indicators of the quality of schools.
  • assembles in one clearinghouse comprehensive reports generated by local committees to reform municipal government.
  • lets viewers compare cities on crime prevention and public safety, fiscal management, economic growth, and education.

Mary Z. Connaughton directs Pioneer's transparency initiatives.

Since 1991, the Institute has hosted the Better Government Competition, which it describes as an annual citizens' ideas contest that rewards some of the nation's most innovative public policy proposals.

Shawni Littlehale is the director of the Better Government Competition.

Center for Economic Opportunity[edit]

The stated purpose of the Center for Economic Opportunity seeks to keep Massachusetts competitive by analyzing the business climate in Massachusetts and promoting thoughtful, data-driven policy recommendations. The Center’s stated goals are as follows:

  • Lower the state corporate tax rate in exchange for reductions in narrowly targeted tax credits. Massachusetts has a high corporate tax rate and a complex array of tax credits and reduction programs. Replacing tax credits, whereby the government picks winners and losers, with lower, across-the-board rates will provide a fairer and more attractive environment for entrepreneurs to grow in.
  • Reduce and remove unnecessary and costly regulations, and gain adoption of a framework for cost-benefit analyses of state regulations and legislation.
  • Maintain the freeze on unemployment insurance and lay the groundwork for a UI reform in 2013, as the economy improves. Massachusetts’ unemployment insurance stands out for the generosity of its benefits and duration, and its relatively easy eligibility requirements. Resetting benefit levels to meet national norms and requiring employers with frequent layoffs to pay more will decrease the overall cost of UI and encourage hiring.

History and Influence[edit]

The Institute claims to have had influence over a broad set of policies, including reforms of bilingual and special education, the formation of key state policies on school accountability and academic standards, welfare programs, public construction, transit funding, health and human service agencies, public employees’ long-term health care benefits, the repair of hundreds of deficient bridges, and more. The Institute’s Better Government Competition has resulted in significant savings and improvements in service for taxpayers. In the past two years, the Institute has worked on successful initiatives regarding public employees’ collective bargaining on health care, pension reform, the freeze on businesses’ unemployment insurance rates, and the expansion of public charter schools, among other important reforms.

Over the past year, Pioneer has focused on topics with national implications, launching initiatives in support of state-based health care reform, and in opposition to federal overreach in K-12 education. In March 2012, Pioneer released and distributed a book on state-based reform of health care policy, The Great Experiment: The States, The Feds, and Your Healthcare. The book received widespread praise. Syndicated columnist Cal Thomas:

“In a series of essays compiled by Joshua Archambault, director of Health Care Policy at the Pioneer Institute, and with a forward by Jeffrey S. Flier, M.D., the dean of Harvard Medical School, experts propose the states take the lead in reforming health care, as Massachusetts did, rather than dictate a one-size-fits-all system from dysfunctional Washington… these are serious and doable proposals that deserve congressional consideration.”

The Wall Street Journal's Kimberley Strassel wrote:

"Jim Stergios, executive director of the Pioneer Institute—a free-market think tank in Boston that has published a book on ObamaCare and RomneyCare titled "The Great Experiment: The States, the Feds, and Your Health Care"—argued in a recent conversation that the fundamental mistake of ObamaCare was in imposing a giant, untested law on an unwilling nation. He contrasts this to the 1990s welfare reform, which came only after 20 years of state experimentation. By the time the federal law was passed, politicians on both sides of the aisle, he says, had come to a sort of "settlement" as to what generally worked. "The Great Experiment" argues that the GOP "alternative" to ObamaCare needs to be federal steps that give states the maximum flexibility to innovate and experiment with free-market health care."

Pioneer began its campaign against Common Core national education standards in 2009, and since then, the Institute has formed a coalition of policy organizations across the country in opposition to what has been called the federal takeover of K-12 education. The Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, Pacific Research Institute, the American Principles Project, the Hoover Institution, the Federalist Society, the Sutherland Institute, the Heartland Institute, and others have published books, op-eds, policy research, and appeared at conferences, forums and in the media against the Common Core.

The national effort to develop common mathematics and ELA standards that states could supposedly voluntarily adopt began with Washington, DC-based trade associations such as the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, sponsors of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. But far from "voluntary," adoption of the standards became criteria for states vying to win federal “Race to the Top” education grant funding.

Pioneer Institute made the case in a series of reports that the federal standards contain weaker content in both ELA and math than Massachusetts' own curricular frameworks. These reports were authored by curriculum experts R. James Milgram, emeritus professor of mathematics at Stanford University, Sandra Stotsky, former Massachusetts Board of Education member and University of Arkansas Professor, and Ze’ev Wurman, a Silicon Valley executive who helped develop California's education standards and assessments. Pioneer also published two definitive reports questioning Common Core's legality and estimating the cost of implementation at over $15 billion.

Nationally syndicated columnist George Will wrote:

"Meanwhile, the Department of Education is pretending that three laws do not mean what they clearly say. This is documented in the Pioneer Institute's report "The Road to a National Curriculum: The Legal Aspects of the Common Core Standards, Race to the Top, and Conditional Waivers" by Robert S. Eitel, Kent D. Talbert and Williamson M. Evers, all former senior Education Department officials. The 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act - No Child Left Behind is its ninth iteration - said "nothing in this act" shall authorize any federal official to "mandate, direct, or control" a state's, local educational agency's or school's curriculum... We have been warned. Joseph Califano, secretary of health, education and welfare in the Carter administration, noted that "in its most extreme form, national control of curriculum is a form of national control of ideas." Here again laws are cobwebs. As government becomes bigger, it becomes more lawless."

Nationally syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher wrote:

"Today, even more states are waking up to discover that they have lost control of both curriculum and costs for a program that is untested and unlikely to improve student performance. A February study by the Pioneer Institute conservatively estimates that Obama's Common Core Standards will costs the states at least $16 billion -- money that could be used to promote education in other ways."

Common Core advocates frequently cite the number of states that have adopted Common Core. However, as states such as Utah, Indiana, Montana, New Hampshire, South Carolina and others begin to take a closer look at Common Core, more are considering withdrawal. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a national association of state legislators, may pass a resolution opposing national standards.

Media Coverage[edit]

Pioneer Institute has received national and international television coverage in the following news outlets: BBC, PBS, MSNBC, MSN Money, Fox News, and CNN; Greater Boston television, including Chronicle, WBZ-TV’s Keller@Large, Greater Boston, NECN, Neighborhood Network News, Fox 25, WHDH, and WCVB-TV. It has received national and international newspaper and magazine coverage in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Economist, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, nationally syndicated columns by George Will, Cal Thomas, Debra Saunders, and Maggie Gallagher; Reuters, Associated Press, The Washington Times, Politico, The Daily Beast, National Review, The Weekly Standard, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Governing Magazine, the New York Post, the Providence Journal, the New Hampshire Union Leader, DesMoines Register, Albany Times-Union, Anchorage Daily News, Florida Times-Union, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Grand Forks (ND) Herald, Baltimore Sun, and many more.

Pioneer opinion piece have been placed in: The Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Albany (NY) Times-Union, Arizona Daily Star (Tucson), Press of Atlantic City (NJ), (Bergen County, NJ) Record, Charleston (WV) Gazette, (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, Daytona Beach (FL) News-Journal, Great Falls (MT) Tribune, Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (online only), The (Portland) Oregonian, Tampa Tribune, Waterbury (CT) Republican-American and Youngstown (OH) Vindicator, and globally in Stars & Stripes (editions in Europe, Japan, and Korea). Local placements include: Attleboro Sun-Chronicle, Boston Business Journal, Cape Cod Times, Gloucester Times, The Patriot Ledger, the MetroWest Daily News, the Lowell Sun, Fall River Herald News, New Bedford Standard-Times, Taunton Gazette, Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Milford Daily News, Salem News, and many more.

Pioneer staff have appeared on radio shows across the country, such as KLUV987-CBS Radio Dallas, the Larry Elder Show, America's Radio News- Nationally Syndicated, AKTINA FM on WNYE, 91.5 New York City, WSBA- York, PA, WCIT- Lima, OH, KONK AM- Key West, FL, Kansas State Radio Network, Jiggy Jaguar Show- Nationally Syndicated, WNEW-AM 1580 CBS Radio Washington, WCBQ-AM 1340 Oxford, North Carolina, WHNC-AM 890 Raleigh, North Carolina, KMED- Medford, OR, WDAS FM- Philadelphia, KGAB 650AM - Cheyenne, WY, Talk Radio Network- Mancow-Nationally Syndicated, KSFO- San Francisco, CA, Point Of View- Nationally Syndicated in 43 states, KUT Austin, New Hampshire NPR’s StateImpact, and IRN Radio-News and Views- Nationally Syndicated in the top 127 markets.

Pioneer’s local radio appearances include: WBUR Radio Boston, The Emily Rooney Show, The Callie Crossley Show, WRKO’s Tom & Todd, WBZ’s Nightside with Dan Rea, Pundit Review, WAMC Springfield, WBSM New Bedford, and WRCN.

Research and Publications[edit]

Each year, the Institute releases white papers and policy briefs on education reform, health care policy, state economic analysis, and municipal management, as well as public testimony and public opinion surveys. It also distributes video and other marketing materials. A partial listing of recent research follows: How to Address Common Core's Reading Standards: Licensure Tests for K-6 Teachers Cogs in the Machine: Big Data, Common Core, and National Testing The Dying of the Light: How Common Core Damages Poetry Instruction Common Core's Validation: A Weak Foundation for a Crooked House Does Boston Convention & Exhibition Center Expansion Really Pay for Itself? Matching Students to Excellent Teachers: How a Massachusetts Charter School Innovates with Teacher Preparation Solvency and Insolvency of the MBTA Retirement Fund Matching Students to Excellent Tutors: How a Massachusetts Charter School Bridges Achievement Gaps Myths and Reality about MBTA Pensions Out of the Filing Cabinet and Into the Fire: How the Shift from Paper to Electronic Health Records Has Endangered Patient Privacy and Security and How to Calm the Flame The Costs of Delaying the Funding of Public Pensions in Massachusetts Have the MBTA's Retirement Plans Gone Off the Rails? The Logic of Pension Valuation: A Response to Robert Novy-Marx A First Step Toward Retiree Healthcare Reform, But Much More Is Needed The Cost of Cost-of-Living Adjustments in Massachusetts Public Retirement Systems

Over the years, Pioneer has produced 15 books on topics ranging from welfare reform and workers' compensation, to bilingual education and school choice. In 2012, Pioneer published a health care policy book, The Great Experiment: The States, The Feds, and Your Healthcare, edited and co-authored by Josh Archambault, with an introduction by Harvard Medical School Dean Jeffrey Flier, and contributions by James C. Capretta, Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Amy M. Lischko, Pioneer Institute's senior fellow on health care and Associate professor at Tufts University School of Medicine, Tom P. Miller, Resident fellow at the AEI, and Jennifer Powell, veteran journalist, Boston Herald. The book's stated purpose is to provide a non-ideological appraisal of state health care experiments, including the Massachusetts law of 2006, and to offer a policy direction for the country aimed toward more affordable and innovative care.


Pioneer holds three annual signature events: the Hewitt Health Care Lecture, the Better Government Competition Awards Dinner, and the Lovett C. Peters Lecture in Public Policy.

Named in honor of longtime Pioneer Chairman, Colby Hewitt, Jr., the Hewitt Health Care Lecture presents timely health care debates to an influential crowd of leaders in medicine, research policy, and business. Recent speakers have included Dr. Don Berwick, James Capretta, Jon Gruber, and Douglas Holtz-Eakin.

Pioneer’s national citizens’ ideas contest, the Better Government Competition, was established in 1991 to promote innovations and accountability in government. It is an annual contest that rewards innovative public policy proposals at an annual dinner. The Institute reports that winning ideas from the Competition have saved Massachusetts taxpayers more than $500 million. Recent awards ceremony keynote speakers have included Texas Governor Rick Perry, Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, former DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, and Massachusetts Governor Patrick.

The Lovett C. Peters Lecture is named in honor of Pioneer's founder, and is billed as an appreciation dinner for the Institute's core supporters. The Lecture's stated purpose is to honor individuals distinguished for the significance of their accomplishments and contributions to society, whose careers have enriched the intellectual climate and demonstrated tangible achievements. Recent honorees have included Sal Khan, Jeb Bush, Cory Booker, and Peter Diamandis.

The Institute hosts numerous events and forums that enable the public to engage directly with key players on the public policy scene. Pioneer has a long-standing practice of hosting speakers of both political parties and of including a wide range of views at its events. Recent speakers at Pioneer's major events have included: former Washington, D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams, national school choice advocate Kevin Chavous, Harvard Program on Education Policy and Governance Director Paul Peterson, education policy expert Jay Greene, presidential historian and Clinton speechwriter Jeff Shesol, former Massachusetts Education Commissioner David Driscoll, Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist, former Louisiana Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek, Hoover Institution Fellow Bill Evers, former US Education Dept. official Nina Rees, nationally recognized education standards expert E.D. Hirsch, Jr., Democrats for Education Reform co-founder Whitney Tilson, Florida Virtual Schools' Director Julie Young, Indiana Superintendent Tony Bennett, former Ambassador to the Vatican and three-term Boston Mayor Ray Flynn, historian Gordon Wood, former President of the Massachusetts State Senate Thomas Birmingham, and former Bill Clinton White House education advisor Andrew Rotherham. Pioneer also holds Member Breakfasts and young professionals cocktails on topics of broader interest. Recent speakers have included national pollster David Paleologos, AEI Scholar Michael Greve, political consultants Steve Grand and Linda Moore Forbes, and many more.


Pioneer staff include: Jim Stergios, Executive Director; Mary Z. Connaughton, Director, Finance and Administration; Greg Sullivan, Director of Research; Jamie Gass, Director, Center for School Reform; Joshua Archambault, Senior Fellow, Center for Healthcare Solutions; Shawni Littlehale, Director, Better Government Competition; Micaela Dawson, Director of Communications; Roger Perry, Development; Brian Patterson, Development Coordinator; and Matt Blackbourn, Operations Assistant. The Institute has a number of research fellows, including: Senior Media Fellow: Charles D. Chieppo; Iliya Atanasov, Senior Fellow on Finance; Senior Fellow on Education: Cara Candal; Senior Fellow on Health Care: Amy Lischko, Associate Professor of Public Health and Community Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine.


Pioneer has a volunteer Board of Directors, which includes Stephen Fantone, Chairman, President/CEO, Optikos Corporation; Lucile Hicks, Vice-Chair; C. Bruce Johnstone, Vice-Chair; Nancy Anthony, Treasurer; Steven Akin; David Boit; Nancy Coolidge; Andrew Davis; Alfred Houston; Keith Hylton; Gary Kearney; John Kingston; Nicole Manseau; Preston McSwain; Mark Rickabaugh; Diane Schmalensee; Kristin Servison; Brian Shortsleeve; and Patrick Wilmerding

In addition, the Institute has three Honorary Directors: Emmy Lou Hewitt; Edna Shamie; and Phyllis Stearns and William Tyler is Chairman Emeritus

Budget and Finances[edit]

The Institute lists its donors in its Annual Report and makes publicly available on its website its financial statements.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Charity Rating". Charity Navigator.  Also see "Quickview data". GuideStar. 
  2. ^ Lawrence, J.M. (November 19, 2010). "Lovett ‘Pete’ Peters, founder of Pioneer Institute; at 97". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 8 December 2012. 
  3. ^ "Editorial: State's charter school agenda". Milford Daily News. February 20, 2004. Retrieved 8 December 2012.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°21′21″N 71°03′27″W / 42.3559°N 71.0574°W / 42.3559; -71.0574