Dr. John C. Bullion has 21 years of experience in education as a Special Education Teacher, Licensed Professional Counselor, Campus Administrator and Special Education Director for a Special Education Shared Services Arrangement in Central Texas. With the belief that each and every child can reach his or her potential with the support of compassionate, courageous educators and communities, his mission has been to move from a compliance-based educational system to one that embraces the unique individuality and differing abilities in children. As the Region 12 Education Service Center Special Education Liaison to the Texas Education Agency, Dr. Bullion has spent the past few years developing resources and solutions for the efficient dissemination of special education resources across the state of Texas.
For the past 50 years, Regional Education Service Centers (RESC) have been integral to the success of Texas Public Schools. RESCs in Texas are defined as “intermediate educational units that provide training, technical assistance, administrative support, and an array of other services as determined by the Legislature, the Commissioner of Education, and the needs of local school districts and charter schools”. The expansion and evolution of RESCs in Texas began in 1965 when the Texas State Board of Education authorized by the 59th Texas Legislature, developed media centers across the state. Beginning in 1967, the board utilized Title III funds from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to create a RESC in each of 20 geographic regions across the state. Initially, the main purpose for RESCs was to distribute 16 mm films to schools and coordinate educational planning in each region in Texas.
The Rise and Roles of ESAs
RESCs in Texas are part of a larger group of service agencies supporting educators in the United States. According to the Association of Educational Service Agencies (AESA), there are currently 500 regional educational service agencies (ESA) in 45 states in the U.S. These ESAs play an important role in the education of the Nation’s children – Pre-Kindergarten through grade twelve and beyond – with the regional supports and services they provided to school districts. ESAs are documented to have been in operation as early as the 1930s.
According to Stephens and Keane (2005), the evolution of the earlier day educational service agency-type organization is arguably one of the most significant developments in the school government, especially during the past four decades. Moreover, the development of the contemporary educational service agency is a fascinating story for it in many ways mirrors the struggles faced by local and state interests to address the huge socio-economic changes that have impacted education over time, as well as the challenges presented by the rising expectations that have been placed on the schools, school districts, and the state. The efforts of the ESAs (Educational Service Agencies), with their limited resources, to implement policy issues initiated by the state and also serve needs defined by local school districts reflect their continuing efforts to strike a meaningful balance in the centralization- decentralization of educational policy.
Meant to operate as extensions of state offices, these early versions of ESAs were intended to provide services, collect educational statistics, develop educational goals, promote educational research, and observing state educational standards.
In those days, Texas schools spread across the state numbering 6,953 school districts with an average enrollment of 65 students. This led to great inequities of educational experiences. Recommendations of the Texas State Board of Education to consolidate these small districts were met with strong opposition from communities fearing the loss of local control and had little effect until the enactment of the Gilmer-Aikin Law in 1949. This law established the Texas Education Agency (TEA). It also created the office of the commissioner of education, a funding plan based on the economic index, and the state’s first minimum salary for teachers. Following the initial resistance to consolidation, the financial incentives of becoming an independent school district with locally elected school board members eventually became the norm in Texas. Currently, RESCs are available to support the 1,200 plus independent school districts and public charter schools in Texas.
Region 12 Education Service Center
Since the Texas Legislature created RESCs through statute in the 1960s, school districts have benefitted from the services, products, and partnerships afforded by these organizations. There are 20 RESCs strategically located throughout the state of Texas – each with their own identity and areas of expertise – mitigating geographic and financial constraints in the services and supports they provide to Texas schools. The ESC Region 12 in Waco, Texas is where I am privileged to work as a Special Education Liaison. ESC Region 12 serves 76 school districts, 10 charter schools, 22 private schools, 413 campuses, 160,613 students, 12,138 teachers, and 24,500 staff members in the 12 surrounding counties. Supporting schools to ensure students receive equitable educational opportunities and operate efficiently and economically, ESC Region 12 strives to maximize district efficiency through systems alignment. All programs and services focus on three impact areas: educator success, resource development, and community outreach.
In his tenure as the executive director of ESC Region 12, Dr. Jerry Maze and his executive leadership team have cultivated the Center’s Culture to reflect its Organizational Vision; Innovate. Empower. Educate. Through strategic partnerships with schools and communities, ESC Region 12 provides innovative solutions while empowering learners with a variety of delivery methodologies and personalized learning opportunities. In doing so, ESC Region 12 fosters trusted relationships with the superintendents, principals, special education directors, teachers, and support staff of schools throughout the region. By offering cost-sharing services, customized professional development, and embedded coaching and support services, ESC Region 12 removes time constraints, funding limitations, and geographical barriers experienced by many educators in small and rural schools around the region.
Through its transformED initiative, ESC Region12 also supports schools in their transition to digital convergence. Through modern pedagogical practices, innovative approaches, collaborative facilities, and redesigned professional learning opportunities characterized by blended learning, flexible scheduling, flipped classrooms, and participant engagement, ESC Region 12 has become a leader in the field of adult learning. As educators across the country transition to distance learning models in response to the COVID-19 Crisis, now is the perfect time to find out if your state and region have an ESA close to you. If you are a Texas Educator, don’t hesitate to reach out to your RESC for ideas, information, and resources. We are here, and we are called to serve!