Texas Education Service Centers (ESCs) were established to provide service to school districts in different regions of Texas. Schools in rural areas have different needs than do schools in cities.Thus, 20 ESCs were established to provide specific services to met the needs of school districts within each region.
The ESCs were originally supported by the state. In 2003 the state legislature allowed the ESCs to sell products and services to bring in more funding. This ended these agencies being a service to schools and opened the door for poor quality products and programs to be produced and sold to public schools.
The ESCs are allowed to be self-governed, thus there has and still is no one who evaluates the quality of the ESC products.
State legislatures, TEA and the State Commissioner of Education, like the ostrich in the illustration seem to keep their head buried in the sand. They certainly were not paying attention when the ESCs created a one-size-fits-all K-12 instruction material for core curriculum (math, science, ELAR, social studies). To add a touch of credibility to this unvetted material called CSCOPE, the ESCs advertised the CSCOPE lessons as being “state lessons.” This is printed on the original CSCOPE materials. Since the ESCs are not held accountable for what they do, the original CSCOPE lessons had plagiarized content. This was not discovered because Texas school superintendents forced their teachers to sign a non-disclosure contract with the ESCs. Teachers signed or they had no job. They agreed to reveal the content of the CSCOPE lessons. The penalty could be legal court action. This divided the staff in Texas schools. As a teacher, I would not respect a superintendent who cared so little for his/her staff that such a contract was mandatory for employment.
Q1 Who is suppose to oversees the ESCs to confirm that state grant money is spent as directed?
A1 TEA is responsible for confirming that grants from the state are used as described. I cannot testify to all grants given to the ESCs from the state of Texas, but the outside evaluation of the Rider 42 PD grant of $150 Million dollars was spent and the product and services were far below par, yet
yet TEA paid the ESCs the grant money.
Q2 Are the boards of trustees for each of the ESCs doing their job?
A2 Some of the ESC employees say having a board of trustees for the ESCs is a joke. The ESC directors handpick these trustees for their ESC.
Q3 Isn’t the Commissioner of Education suppose to oversee the ESCs to make sure they use money correctly?
A3 State Commission of Education, Michael Williams, allowed the ESCs to develop the rules governing the ESCs.
Basically all the Texas Education Service Centers are given “blank checks” with no real checks-and- balances for verifying what money is used for. Only a very small handful of top directors within each Education Service Center are privy to what happens to the yearly inflow of multi-millions of dollars received by each ESC. The ESCs receive Federal Grants as well as grant money from the state. How much and what the money is to be used for is only known by the elite few within the ESCs.
The long and short of it is that the ESCs have evolved from service centers to being part of a very corrupt network. It is difficult to follow the money trail because of the secrecy and misappropriation of funds. It is all hush hush when it comes to where grant money goes.
Q4 Why did Robert Scott resign from being the state commissioner of education?
A4 Scott resigned soon after the midwinter TASA conference when he basically did an 180 degree turn from where we all thought he was on many things. Most people considered Robert Scott to stand behind conservative education values.
When the superintendents at the TASA conference gave Scott a standing ovation for supporting TASA’s goals, we realized that he had been a wolf in sheep clothing or had for some reason been persuaded to support TASA’s goals of implementing Common Core and its assessments.
Q5 I personally think the TEKS and the STAAR do not meet the expectations described. The science TEKS are very vague, and some science TEKS are not correct. When I ask for clarification or to report an error, the answer is always that I just do not understand the objective of the TEKS. Is this attitude the same for everyone who asks questions?
A4 Their patronizing attitude is how TEA and the ESCs get away with so much. It intimidates so many including good educators who might work at TEA or the ESCs. We are patted on the head like we just don’t understand the big picture. We get the picture, shut up and do what we say and don’t ask questions.