While the recent Yazzie/Martinez v. State of New Mexico decision has understandably received intense interest for its landmark ruling that New Mexico’s public schools are not adequately funded, there has been less attention on another, equally important aspect of the ruling: the finding that more money will only make a difference for students if it is spent in the classroom.
As Judge Singleton explained in her ruling, there are two aspects to the state’s failure to provide an adequate education. First, she concluded that not enough money is spent to fund the programs children need.
Second, Judge Singleton stated on Page 53 of the decision that the Public Education Department and school districts are not doing enough to make sure that the money is actually being spent in ways that will improve outcomes for at-risk students.
Last year, Think New Mexico studied some of the most successful school districts in the state, such as Gadsden, Texico and Farmington. We found that these districts tend to spend a high proportion of their budgets on classroom expenses, such as teachers, coaches, counselors, nurses, educational assistants and school supplies, rather than on administrative expenses in the central district office.