New Orleans’ publicly funded schools spent 13 percent more a pupil after the post-Katrina reforms than the comparison group, and administrative spending at publicly funded schools increased by 66% relative to the comparison group, according to researchers Christian Buerger and Douglas N. Harris of Tulane University. The authors address issues of spending reform in their recent policy brief for the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans. Buerger and Harris examine the effects of New Orleans school reforms on the impact on operating expenditures of publicly-funded schools, using the city’s highly autonomous charter school landscape as a testing ground. They compare post-Katrina school reforms among the city’s publicly-funded schools to a group of Louisiana school districts with similar spending patterns before the New Orleans reforms shifted the city to a charter-driven system.
In addition to the spending increases, they found instructional expenditures decreased by 10% relative to the comparison group, accounted for by a drop in instructional staff benefits and salaries (a decrease in the average salary per instructor). In all, the post-Katrina reforms led to more spending overall, and notably different spending patterns among New Orleans’ publicly funded schools.
The implications of these findings are significant for New Orleans, as it is not clear whether these changes are sustainable financially. As the authors note, “Money clearly matters, and it provides important information about how schools operate and what they value.”