Educators Continue to Find Education Service Centers Invaluable

Texas educators continue to find services provided by the 20 Texas Regional Education Service Centers (ESCs) invaluable, and school leaders strongly approve of the support being provided.  The Institute for Organizational Excellence at The University of Texas at Austin conducted a survey of 1,288 leaders of school districts and charter schools on their satisfaction with services provided by the 20 ESCs, as required by the Texas Education Code. On average, the ESCs scored a 4.78 on a 5 point scale based on 14 different service areas. Respondents were asked to describe their level of satisfaction on a variety of ESC services such as those designed to help schools operate efficiently and economically, support for Bilingual and ESL Education, and support in the core academic areas (mathematics, science, social studies, and English Language Arts.)  For most items, 96% of respondents expressed that they were very satisfied or satisfied with ESC services.RA Grani

“We are very happy with these results and continue to focus on ensuring that each person that interacts with an ESC has a positive experience,” said Danny Lovett, Executive Director of Region 5 ESC in Beaumont. Lovett added, “ESCs take pride in providing high-quality services that help students, teachers, and schools be successful and operate as efficiently and effectively as possible. We look forward to continuing to provide these services in the future.”

The survey was conducted electronically in the fall of 2013 and received a 73% response rate.  The instrument included 14 quantitative items and allowed for respondents to provide comments about services, suggest new services, and make comments on services not mentioned in the quantitative section of the survey. Educator comments were positive and expressed appreciation for the degree of support received and money saved by utilizing their ESC. Respondents also described their ESC as an invaluable resource that provides an exceptional level of service.

The Texas Legislature has charged ESCs with providing products and services that help schools operate more efficiently and economically.  The 20 ESCs are located in Edinburg, Corpus Christi, Victoria, Houston, Beaumont, Huntsville, Kilgore, Pittsburg, Wichita Falls, Richardson, Fort Worth, Waco, Austin, Abilene, San Angelo, Amarillo, Lubbock, Midland, El Paso, and San Antonio.  A study prepared for the 83rd Legislature found that ESCs provide more than $830 million in cost savings per year to Texas schools through various products and services.

2013 Client Satisfaction Survey- Executive Summary

2013 Client Satisfaction Survey Report

Education Service Centers Are Worth the Investment

At a recent meeting activist in a West Texas town, a non-resident called for the closure of Regional Education Service Centers (ESCs) and referred to them an absolute waste of taxpayer dollars. The rationale for this claim is that ESCs compete with the private sector in providing products and services to school districts. It is perceived that service providers would still be interested in providing products and services to small, rural districts; however history does not reflect that this is accurate. It is obvious this individual has not recently been in a small or rural school district.http://reteks.ru

Products and services provided by ESCs originate when a school district makes a request for assistance. Frequently, these requests come from small districts who either cannot find the necessary resource in the private sector or they have discovered that a private vendor will not provide the service because it is not cost effective for that company. When this occurs, the ESCs step in and fill the gaps or work with area districts to form cooperative purchasing agreements that make it more economical for the private vendor to provide their services to those small districts. When I began working for the ESCs, I had no idea that this is a service they provide. Like most individuals, I assumed that ESCs just performed professional development and a few small services, and I had worked in a school district prior! These services ensure that every district has the same access to products and services that improve the learning environment for students.

In total, the ESCs partner with over 10,000 vendors for a total of approximately $900 million worth of contract business with the private sector .  These are primarily through cooperative purchase agreements, shared service arrangements, and other partnerships.  Arrangements with the private sector allow school districts to gain access to everything from technology support to fresh foods. For many of these arrangements the ESC serve merely as the fiscal agent and the partnership does not produce any revenue for the ESC. Without ESCs it is unlikely that districts would have access to each of these vendors and it is less likely that $900 million would be entering the Texas economy.

At the same meeting, a supporter mentioned how ESCs help smaller districts operate more efficiently by serving as their business office; however a local CPA said they did not understand why this was needed because surely the superintendent had time to perform these duties. As any educator who has worked in a small district knows, the superintendent is not just the appointed head of the school district, but the Director of Human Resources, Business Manager, cafeteria cleaner, groundskeeper, and in many cases, the bus driver. They wear a number of hats and it is not always the most efficient or cost effective process to allow them to perform each of these duties. They need someone to assist them with each of their responsibilities and ESCs are in a great position to assist with these duties. ESCs can remove the fiscal strain on already tight budgets by serving as a business office, technical support office, or other roles requested by the districts.  This allows the superintendent to focus primarily on providing a successful teaching and learning environment and not on the various other functions of the district.

Additionally, I wonder if these individuals have any idea about how school districts are assisted in implementing many of the unfunded mandates they face. Whether it is training school nurses and counselors, performing safety audits, or ensuring bus drivers have the appropriate credentials to meet state standards, ESCs are there to assist districts in complying with these mandates at little to no costs. Perhaps the critics are right though. Surely the more than $830 million in savings per year to school districts that ESCs provide is not worth the $12.5 million investment.

Texas School Buzz

These days many people outside the education community seem to be asking “What are Education Service Centers (ESCs) and what do they do?” It is also unfortunate that they are focusing solely on one product that ESCs provide and ignoring the fact that ESCs provide significant cost savings and educational opportunities for schools across Texas. There are many people who admit that the Texas Education Agency could not meet all if its obligations, if it were not for the work of the ESCs……Read more at Texas School Buzz

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