Think Twice Weekly Report

DECEMBER 16, 2023 - JANUARY 5, 2024

The Think Twice Weekly Report compiles public education-related policy reports, research and articles of interest to policymakers, educators and stakeholders. This list is not exhaustive but is meant to highlight recent reports that may be used to support or undermine the work of our subscribers in supporting public schools. We encourage you to take a moment to scan these reports and determine if they may be used by policy makers to assist or erode your mission.

Policy Reports

School Finance and Funding / Tuition Tax Credits

Source: EdChoice
Date: 12/19/2023
The Fiscal Effects of Expanding Mississippi's Education Savings Accounts

Historically, Mississippi has ranked well below the national average in taxpayer spending per pupil in K-12 public schools. Lawmakers have increased taxpayer spending on K-12 schools in recent years, though, and the increases in taxpayer spending have resulted in: increases in public school employment, increases in public school compensation, and increases in unspent end-of-year fund balances.


In this report, the authors estimate the fiscal effects of four different education savings account policies for Mississippi.

School Finance and Funding

Source: University of Arkansas
Date: 12/20/2023
Charter School Funding: Did Initial Pandemic Relief Advance Equity in the City?

In three recent decisions, the Supreme Court of the United States clarified that the First Amendment's prohibition on religious discrimination extends to public benefit programs that enlist private organizations to advance public goals. In Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer (2017), the Court held that Missouri violated the Free Exercise Clause by excluding a faith-based preschool from a state program that provided recycled tires for playground resurfacing. In Espinoza v. Montana Departmentc of Revenue (2020), the Court held that the Montana Supreme Court violated the Free Exercise Clause when it invalidated, on state constitutional grounds, a private-school-choice program because it included faith-based schools. And in Carson v. Makin (2022), the Court held that Maine unconstitutionally excluded religious schools from a scholarship program for students in rural school districts.


Read together, these cases make clear that when the government adopts a program that extends public benefits to private organizations, the Free Exercise Clause prohibits it from excluding religious organizations from participating and from requiring them to secularize to participate. Unfortunately, the import of these decisions is not yet universally reflected in government policies on the ground. Although the Court has made clear that the government cannot refuse to extend otherwise available public benefits to organizations because they are religious-or because they do religious things-many dozens, likely even hundreds, of public programs at all levels of government continue to do exactly that.


This report collects and examines state-level programs that run afoul of the First Amendment's nondiscrimination mandate. These programs enlist private organizations to advance a range of goals-education, job training, poverty alleviation, housing, health care-but exclude some organizations from participating because they are religious or limit their participation to "secular" or "nonsectarian" activities. Our report is not comprehensive. Rather, the examples highlighted here are part of a much wider problem that pervades local, state, and federal programs. We hope that this report will provoke a discussion about reforming public programs to comply with the Free Exercise Clause's nondiscrimination principle and provide a road map for lawmakers and advocates concerned about the persistence of religious discrimination in public programs.

School Choice

Source: Commonwealth Foundation
Date: 1/4/2024
Lifeline and Education Choice Myths and Facts

The Commonwealth Foundation today released a report addressing the most common myths about education spending, the success of educational choice programs, and the need for programs like Lifeline Scholarships.


Lifeline Scholarships, also known as the Pennsylvania Award for Student Success (PASS) Program, would offer scholarships ranging from $2,500 to $15,000 per year for students in the commonwealth's lowest-performing public schools, enabling them to attend a school of their choice. The Pennsylvania legislature included Lifeline Scholarships/PASS in the 2023–24 state budget. However, Gov. Josh Shapiro, a Lifeline Scholarships/PASS supporter, vetoed the legislation to appease state House legislators opposed to school choice.

Reports Reviewed

GLC seeks to ensure that policy briefs impacting education reform are based on sound, credible academic research. Below are reviews conducted with GLC support.

Review of The Cost-Effectiveness of Wisconsin's Private School Choice Programs

Source: School Choice Wisconsin
Reviewed by: Stephen Kotok, St. John's University

A recent report from School Choice Wisconsin claims that Wisconsin's voucher programs are highly "productive," achieving better academic outcomes at lower costs than public schools. A closer examination, however, calls into question the validity of these assertions.

Stephen Kotok of St. John's University reviewed The Cost-Effectiveness of Wisconsin's Private School Choice Programs, and identified substantial methodological shortcomings that undermine its conclusions, including reliance on biased comparisons and limited financial accounting.

What We're Reading

Research and articles that we want to highlight for subscribers as potential resources:

2023 Across the Aisle Report: Cutting Through the Noise: Parents and Voters Want Real-World Skills, Safe Schools, and Literacy

By: The Hunt Institute

The survey's detailed findings suggest what The Hunt Institute describes as "significant alignment" among voters and parents around "core values" in education. Survey respondents favored proposals such as increasing job skills and training educators and other school personnel to address mental health concerns.

Navigating Book Bans

By: Elizabeth M. Ross, Harvard Graduate School of Education
A guide for educators as efforts intensify to censor books

Teaching in the Face of Book Bans

By: Elizabeth M. Ross, Harvard Graduate School of Education
In the second part of a series on helping educators navigate book challenges, Timothy Patrick McCarthy, historian and lecturer on education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, encourages teachers to resist censorship efforts by taking control of their own curriculum in creative ways. In an interview, he shares historical perspective and advice for educators.

Less than 1% of COVID emergency funds approved for spending extensions

By: Kara Arundel, K-12 Dive

The minuscule amount of extended spending could indicate states and their districts have, for the most part, been able to spend down all their funds from the first two rounds of pandemic relief aid directed toward K-12.

How schools (but not necessarily education) became central to the Republican primary

By: Danielle Kurtzleben, NPR
In this primary, talking about schools and talking about education are often different things. A lot of the campaign rhetoric hasn't been about student achievement, school choice or standardized testing. Rather, it's about playing out culture wars on the battleground of K-12 schools.