After citing the the abundant research that spending matters when it comes to student outcomes, and admitting that the NOLA schools saw a $1,358 funding increase per student after privatization, Harris then argues:
It is questionable, however, whether the results from these studies provide a valid indication of the counterfactual in this case. First, the corruption and dysfunction in the Orleans Parish School Board prior to the storm implies that the additional resources would not have been used to generate better outcomes to the extent that the average district did in the above school funding studies. Second, the city’s spending increase, which came mainly from local funding and philanthropists, may have been partly caused by the reforms. The same inefficiencies that led to public disenchantment with the local OPSB pre-Katrina led to a widespread perception in the city that the reforms improved schools (Cowen Institute, 2016). This increased public support likely contributed to political support for local property tax levies and the backing of philanthropists that produced the spending increase. Any effect of spending on student outcomes, in this sense, may not be just an alternative explanation, but rather an indirect effect of the reforms. Therefore, while spending almost certainly contributed to the overall effect, it is unclear whether it was a substantial cause.