ALBUQUERQUE, N.M – Some experts argue that public school districts need strong central leadership – meaning a large contingent of highly-paid administrators – to be successful.

But the evidence suggests otherwise, at least in New Mexico.

The Texico, New Mexico school district only has three administrators working in its central office – a superintendent, business manager and secretary – according to a 2017 news report from the Albuquerque Journal.

Yet the small, low-income district – which has a population poverty rate of around 30 percent – ranks among the top academic K-12 institutions in the state.

In 2016, its graduation rate was a state-best 95 percent, which was far higher than the national average of 83 percent, the news report said.

In 2017, Texico students ranked seventh in New Mexico in reading and ninth in math.

That’s why the district is being held up as a star example by an organization called Think New Mexico, which has been pushing state lawmakers to force school districts to spend more of their money in the classroom and far less on administrative salaries and benefits.

The state recently ranked 43rd in the nation when it comes to dollars spent in the classroom, the news report said. Yet, it ranked 36th in overall education spending.

That means too much money is being spent in the wrong places.

New Mexico already has standards in place for the percentage of school dollars that should be spent directly on classrooms. It’s 65 percent for smaller districts and 75 percent for larger ones, but 40 of the state’s 89 districts don’t reach those standards, the Journal reported.

“Only 57 cents of every dollar spent on education goes to instruction statewide,” the Journal reported. “The rest pays for administrative costs such as school boards, superintendents, human resources, public relations, purchasing, printing and other expenses that don’t directly impact students.”

If New Mexico school districts simply lowered their administrative spending to match the national average, almost $55 million more would be available for classrooms, according to a report published last year by Think New Mexico.

“New Mexico has limited resources, and we must make sure that the dollars we are currently appropriating for education are spent as effectively as possible,” the Think New Mexico report said.

“… In general, high-performing school districts spend a larger percentage of their budgets on instruction and a lower percentage on general administration than lower-performing districts, and they also tend to employ smaller numbers of administrative staff.”