Chapter 7: Workforce
Rate Official Notices to Local Workforce Development Boards
A primary purpose of federal workforce reforms enacted since 1995 is to
facilitate local responses to local workforce problems. In actuality, states and
local boards have very little flexibility due to federal funding requirements.
The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) should create a simple rating system that
assigns a “flexibility” rating to each notice it sends to local
boards to indicate the degree of flexibility the boards have in implementing
In 1995, state law decentralized most of Texas’ workforce services to
local “workforce development boards” to allow each region to create
customized solutions to its unique workforce
needs. Workforce development boards are
responsible for managing career development centers and contracting for
workforce services in their area. The federal Workforce Investment Act of 1998
also promised local boards a high level of flexibility and control in overseeing
In actuality, states and local boards have very little flexibility. The
federal government provides 80 percent of workforce program funds, and requires
the funds to be spent on specific populations. In addition, programs using
federal dollars must meet different performance measures for each federal
TWC issues directives and guidelines to the 28 local workforce development
boards across the state. TWC issues two types of official notices, Workforce
Development Letters (WDLs) and informational notices, modeled after the Training
and Employment Guidance Letters and Training and Employment Information Notices
issued by the US Department of Labor. Other states follow the same format. TWC
releases about 130 WDLs and 20 informational notices annually. This amounts to
approximately a dozen official notices each
Each WDL and information notice contains a purpose, reference to laws and
policies affecting the change or clarification, background information,
procedure, and actions required, as well as the telephone number and e-mail
address of a contact person.
TWC develops the guidelines and rules based on federal or state statutes or
rules, or agency policies. In some cases, local workforce boards must follow the
directives exactly or risk federal sanctions. In other cases, policies are for
the convenience of TWC staff, and thus leave local boards with greater
discretion as to how or even if they should implement the directives.
Since their creation, local boards have been frustrated by their lack of
local control over funding for their region. They often do not know when they
must follow TWC directives “to the letter,” or when they can modify
their responses. At a meeting of local board chairs and directors, one member
stated, “I wish I knew when I can say ‘No,’ just like TWC can
say to the feds, ‘No.’” Even
though TWC’s notices state the source of the directive, local boards find
the information inadequate. Rodney Bradshaw, executive director of the Gulf
Coast Workforce Development Board, which includes Harris and surrounding
counties, states, “There is no real information on where flexibility
exists from TWC.” While he acknowledges the challenges TWC faces in
responding to federal regulations, he laments the lack of discussion or
direction that local boards receive.
The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) should create
a rating system for directives and guidelines it sends to local workforce
The rating system should assign a “flexibility” rating to each
notice it sends to local boards to indicate the degree of flexibility the boards
have in implementing each directive. For example, a rating of “1”
displayed at the top of a WDL or informational notice would indicate that
failure to follow the process exactly would result in a financial sanction. A
“5” would mean that the information is providing ideas or insight,
and failure to implement it would carry no consequences. TWC should provide
local boards with an explanation of the ratings and how local boards can use
them to improve operations.
This would provide board chairs and directors with a way to prioritize their
response to WDLs and informational notices. It would also let them know
immediately when a directive calls on the board’s creativity and when it
simply requires compliance.
Since TWC staff would develop the directives and indicate the purpose and
source, adding a flexibility rating should not require additional resources;
therefore, this recommendation should not result in a fiscal impact to the
 Texas H.B. 1863, 74th Leg.,
Reg. Sess., 1995.
 Texas Workforce Commission,
“Responses to Questions As stated in E-Texas Workforce Team
Summary,” Austin, Texas, June 2000.
 Notes from a meeting of
local workforce development board chairs and executive directors, Austin, Texas,
October 25, 1999.
 Telephone interview with
Rodney Bradshaw, executive director, Gulf Coast Workforce Development Board,
January 24, 2000.