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

Recommendations of the Texas Comptroller

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 each directive.


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.[1] 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 workforce programs.

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 program.

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 month.[2]

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.’”[3] 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.[4]


The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) should create a rating system for directives and guidelines it sends to local workforce development boards.

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.

Fiscal Impact

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 state.

[1] Texas H.B. 1863, 74th Leg., Reg. Sess., 1995.

[2] Texas Workforce Commission, “Responses to Questions As stated in E-Texas Workforce Team Summary,” Austin, Texas, June 2000.

[3] Notes from a meeting of local workforce development board chairs and executive directors, Austin, Texas, October 25, 1999.

[4] Telephone interview with Rodney Bradshaw, executive director, Gulf Coast Workforce Development Board, January 24, 2000.

e-Texas is an initiative of Carole Keeton Rylander, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
Post Office Box 13528, Capitol Station
Austin, Texas

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