CONSERVATIVE ADVOCACY AT THE GRASS ROOTS

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

The Pioneer Institute is hardly alone in advocating free-market solutions to state problems.

Since the mid-1980s, at least two dozen other conservative think tanks have sprung up in states across the country with the aim of producing a steady stream of books and reports on such issues as education, health care, and law enforcement.

These research and advocacy organizations are attempting to bring Ronald Reagan's conservative revolution from Washington to the state capitals.

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"During the Reagan years there was a lot of talk of the `New Federalism.' Most of the action on domestic policy was taking place at the state level," says Matthew Glavin, president of the State Policy Network, a loose confederation of free-market think tanks.

"All of the research being done in Washington by the American Enterprise Institute and Heritage Foundation is good, but issues like education are basically state issues," says Mr. Glavin, who is also director of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation in Atlanta. "They need to be dealt with locally."

These think tanks share a passion for using the private sector, rather than government, to deliver social services. For example, many of them advocate programs such as educational vouchers to improve the quality of schooling, health-care vouchers to replace Medicare, and the privatization of many government programs.

"Taxpayers are becoming irate that taxes are rising and government services aren't as good as they once were. They're looking for alternatives," says Clifford Frick of the Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives in Harrisburg, Pa. "We're one of the groups presenting alternatives."

The think tanks have something else in common: their source of money. Most receive funds from such conservative philanthropic groups as the John M. Olin Foundation and the Coors Foundation.

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