What are Education Service Centers?
Regional education service centers—or ESCs—were created in 1967 by the Texas Legislature, and have been charged with providing services to meet the needs of local schools and school districts. Over time, ESCs have come to play an ever increasing role in our public education system. The state has been divided into 20 geographic regions, with each ESC being tasked to serve schools in the particular region.
What do Education Service Centers do?
ESCs are public entities tasked by the Texas Legislature to provide services and support that help schools be more efficient and economical. ESCs provide high quality, cost-effective support programs for local schools and districts. By working cooperatively, districts can share costs rather than fund duplicate programs. This enables local districts to direct more resources to the classroom and away from administrative and support costs.
How are ESCs governed?
Each individual ESC has a board of directors that are elected by school members in that particular region. Each board must also have a representative of the charter schools in that region. A member of the board is not entitled to compensation from the ESC, but is entitled to reimbursement with center funds for necessary expenses incurred in performing duties as a board member. Each board is responsible for adopting an annual budget and ensuring that the region has a sound management plan.
Why are Education Service Centers needed?
The primary reason for a strong system of ESCs is simple: financial savings to schools and the state. These savings are critical to provide necessary educational support programs and se and the need for local schools and districts to focus on their basic mission— the education of children. Individual school districts do not possess the resources necessary to operate as efficiently as possible, without diverting resources, time, and money away from the teaching and learning processes in the classroom.
How are ESCs funded?
ESCs are non-taxing entities, and as such rely on funding from four different sources: state appropriated funds, state grant funds, federal grant funds, and local revenue generated from the sale of ESC services. Over time, state appropriated funds have been reduced and ESCs have been directed to be more self-sufficient and entrepreneurial. Currently, state appropriated funds make up less than 2% of all ESC funds. The majority of ESC funds are generated through federal grants (i.e. Head Start programs) and locally generated revenue. It is important to note that any funds allocated by the Texas Legislature or that are received through state or federal grants are non-discretionary and can only be used for specific purposes either outlined in Chapter 8 of the Texas Education Code, or to meet the services prescribed by the grant. All funds are designated in accordance with the Financial Accountability System Resource Guide.
Do ESCs compete with private business?
In some areas and parts of the state an ESC may be a competitor of a private business. However, state law only allows an ESC to develop a service that is either required by the state or that a district or group of districts are requesting. This is especially necessary in the more rural and sparse areas of Texas. In many of these communities there is no vendor available who can provide the quality of service that is needed. ESCs also partner with private companies to provide services to schools. In 2012, the twenty ESCs partnered with over 10,000 vendors for a total of over $900 million worth of goods and services. We believe that the ability of ESCs to bring districts together to work cooperatively maintains a healthy level of competition in the free markets and helps ensure that whomever a school chooses to perform a service that the district receives the best value.
What is the relationship between ESCs and the Texas Education Agency?
The Texas Education Agency performs certain regulatory functions and is responsible for setting in place rules and regulations for implementing initiatives enacted by the Legislature. ESCs are by state law non-regulatory, but do assist both schools and TEA in implementing state initiatives by providing services and being a link that connects the state and local governments. Being a non-regulatory arm of the state allows the ESCs to develop a level of trust and assurance with both TEA and local schools to ensure that all parties involved in educating children are working together in a cooperatively way.
How are ESCs accountable?
A list of how ESCs are accountable to local taxpayers, the Texas Legisalture, TEA, and school districts can be found here. Accountability measures include an annual financial audit of each of the twenty ESCs, an annual evaluation of the center and the executive director performed by the Commissioner of Education, annual reports on various student performance indicators and cost savings delivered to TEA, and an annual client satisfaction survey sent to each school district within the geographic region of that ESC. Additionally, each ESC undergoes an annual financial audit. Those reports can be found here. Each accountability measure is important to ensure that we are being good stewards of public dollars and truly are meeting the needs of the schools and educators we serve.
Do ESCs serve charter school and private schools?
Any service provided by an ESC is available to any charter or private school in the state. Charter schools by design are to be different from public schools, but that does not mean their need for high-quality services and professional development goes away. As charter schools have grown across Texas, ESCs have begun to work with their leaders to develop services specifically designed to meet the unique nature of charter schools.
How do we know ESCs help school districts be more efficient?
We believe that the proof of an increased efficiency in schools due to the services provided by ESCs is reflected in the fact that schools continue to choose the service and support of ESCs to meet the needs of their local communities. Additionally, there have been many studies done that have estimated that ESCs provide services that, in total, save Texas taxpayers in excess of $830 million dollars per year.
Do the ESCs post their check register?