e-Texas e-Texassmaller smarter faster governmentDecember, 2000
Carole Keeton Rylander
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts

Recommendations of the Texas Comptroller

Chapter 6: Education

Review the Role of Regional

Education Service Centers

in Public Education


The 1965 Texas Legislature created regional education service centers (RESCs) to distribute federal education funding. Since that time, the services provided by RESCs have multiplied, their budgets have grown, and responsibility for their oversight has changed. Despite sweeping changes in the roles and responsibilities of RESCs, the state has never conducted a comprehensive assessment of how RESCs fit into the overall educational delivery system. Such a review should be conducted by the Comptroller’s office.


For nearly 35 years, 20 regional education service centers (RESCs) have provided services to Texas school districts in geographic regions created in 1967.[1] RESCs charge districts varying fees for their services; few if any of their services are free.

Created initially by the 1965 Texas Legislature as vehicles for distributing federal education funding, the RESCs’ role has broadened to include instruction-related services, media services, teacher training and certification testing, training for bus drivers and school board members, informational services, data processing, and administering various federal and state programs. Most, if not all, RESCs also provide media services, teacher training, and support for the state’s Public Education Information Management System (PEIMS), which collects information for the state’s accountability system.

RESCs received over $300 million in total revenue in the 1998-99 biennium.[2] For the 1996-97 biennium, 35 percent of RESC funding came from school district payments for RESC services. Another 40 percent came from the federal government for programs such as Head Start, Child Nutrition, Adult Education, Special Education and other programs.[3] State funding provided the remaining 25 percent.

In recent years, the state’s Commissioner of Education has assumed greater authority over the RESCs. In 1992, the State Board of Education (SBOE) granted the commissioner authority to approve RESC executive directors.[4] In 1995, the Legislature directed the commissioner to create and administer an RESC accountability system. In 1997, the Legislature transferred rulemaking authority for the RESCs from SBOE to the commissioner, and authorized the commissioner to conduct annual RESC evaluations including financial audits, client satisfaction surveys, and reviews of any other performance indicators the commissioner chooses to establish.[5]

Despite the commissioner’s increasingly broad responsibilities, authority over RESCs is fragmented. Legally, RESCs are nonprofit corporations governed by “lay boards” elected by local school boards and administered by executive directors hired by the RESC boards with the approval of the state Commissioner of Education.[6] The commissioner also must approve any dismissal of an executive director. The executive directors are responsible for the day-to-day management of the RESCs, although they answer to the commissioner. The authority of the lay boards is limited largely to obtaining the commissioner’s permission to hire and fire executive directors.

The increased authority of the Commissioner of Education and the fact that many of TEA’s technical assistance functions have been moved to the RESCs means the education service centers are functioning in practice as if they were TEA satellite offices.[7] RESC personnel are expected to be familiar with TEA regulations and to help districts comply with them. Nevertheless, education service centers are not state agencies; their payroll and benefits are independent of the state’s salary classification system, and RESCs are free to set charges for their services. RESCs, moreover, are prohibited from enforcing state regulations.[8]

RESCs can compete with one another to provide services to school districts, since the Legislature has explicitly authorized districts to purchase services from any RESC in the state. In practice, the centers fail to provide school districts with the sort of information that would allow them to compare the type, cost, or quality of the services the various RESCs and private providers might offer. While such information would be helpful to districts, the RESCs have no incentive to provide comparative data that could threaten their own market positions.

RESC Oversight

High-level oversight of RESCs has been sporadic and limited, despite their increasingly important role in Texas public education. The Comptroller’s office conducted a modest review of the centers in 1992 as part of a “limited performance review” of TEA; this review resulted in six major proposals and 25 detailed recommendations for changes in RESC operations and procedures, some of which were partially implemented.[9]

The 1995 Legislature called for a “sunset review” of the RESCs, but relied on the Commissioner of Education to perform the study. The commissioner responded with a 26-page report, plus a focus-group report and a survey of RESC customers. The report provided little information regarding the objective measurement of performance or efficiency.[10] The 1997 Legislature enacted some modest changes in accordance with the commissioner’s recommendations.

TEA does not regularly track the RESCs’ current expenditures, revenues, or employee statistics. The only rule imposed by the commissioner on the RESCs concerns the procedures for RESC board member selection. Moreover, despite the commissioner’s considerable oversight authority, the process for evaluating RESCs and ensuring their accountability to Texas taxpayers is unstructured and ineffective. The commissioner examines:

  • The results of regional student Texas Assessment of Academic Skills testing;
  • Regional Academic Excellence Indicator System statistics;
  • Reports from district effectiveness and compliance visits;
  • Management/service audits; and,
  • Financial audit reports.[11]

To date however, neither the commissioner nor any other independent authority has attempted to undertake a detailed study of RESC service delivery systems, their relationships to the districts and TEA, their business processes, the possible benefits of outsourcing certain functions, or other fundamental issues.

Efforts to achieve educational excellence must couple accountability with the freedom to pursue innovation. While RESCs appear to have a great deal of freedom, the state has a vested interest in ensuring that they are held accountable for using taxpayer dollars in a cost-effective manner.


State law should be amended to authorize the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts to conduct a comprehensive review of the state’s Regional Education Service Centers (RESCs).

This review should include a “Yellow Pages Test” for competitive contracting opportunities, and analyses of RESC oversight, finances, business practices, accountability safeguards, and their number and geographic distribution. This analysis also should weigh the need for RESCs, as opposed, for example, to a separate system of Texas Education Agency field offices.

Fiscal Impact

The Comptroller of Public Accounts and the Texas Education Agency would enter into an interagency contract for a comprehensive review of RESCs. The review would be directed by the Comptroller of Public Accounts, and funds for the review would be drawn from funds appropriated by the Legislature for RESC operations. A comprehensive review of the state’s RESC network would cost the state about $500,000 in consulting fees and other costs.

[1] Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, Texas Education Agency Performance Review (Austin, Texas, May 3, 1993), p. 94.

[2] Interview with Philip Cochran, director of Regional Education Service Center Support, Texas Education Agency, Austin, Texas, November 9, 2000.

[3] Texas Education Agency, Regional and District Level Report: A Report to the 76th Texas Legislature (Austin, Texas, December 1, 1998), p. 11.

[4] Texas Education Agency, Regional and District Level Report: A Report to the 76th Texas Legislature, p. 10.

[5] Interview with Philip Cochran, director of Regional Education Service Center Support, Texas Education Agency, Austin, Texas, June 16, 2000; and V.C.T.A., Education Code, §8.101 and §8.103.

[6] V.C.T.A., Education Code, §8(a).

[7] See Texas Education Agency, Regional and District Level Report: A Report to the 76th Texas Legislature, p. 15, for a listing of these functions.

[8] V.C.T.A., Education Code, §8.054.

[9] Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, Texas Education Agency Performance Review.

[10] Texas Education Agency, Service Centers 2000: Task Force Report to the Commissioner of Education (Austin, Texas, August 1996).

[11] Interview with Philip Cochran, June 16, 2000.

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Austin, Texas

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