TCTA's Holly Eaton testifying at a July 2012 Senate Education Committee hearingTCTA's Holly Eaton testifying at a July 2012 Senate Education Committee hearingTCTA's Holly Eaton testifying at a July 2012 Senate Education Committee hearingTCTA pushed for a rule change that would allow teachers to serve on Texas’ Regional Education Service Center boards in testimony during a Senate Committee on Education hearing July 17, 2012.

Holly Eaton, TCTA director of professional development and advocacy, informed the committee that a current TEA rule prohibits educators from serving on the boards of the ESCs, which provide leadership, training and technical assistance to school districts, parents and community members in their respective regions.

The rule, which prohibits members of ESC boards from being “engaged professionally in education,” was intended to prevent conflicts of interest that would arise if board members were employed by school districts with which the ESCs contract to provide services, Eaton said.

“Although such a potential conflict might exist for school administrators, who are recognized as official agents of a school, this is not the case for teachers,” Eaton testified.

She stressed that many of the issues the ESC boards make decisions about – certification, curriculum development and management, and professional development – directly relate to teaching.

"The majority of the core services provided by the ESCs relate to instruction, and we feel these boards could benefit greatly from having the teacher viewpoint on them," Eaton said.

TCTA proposes that regional Teachers of the Year serve on ESC boards

Eaton also offered a solution for selecting the teachers who would serve on the ESC boards – making it an official role of the 40 teachers chosen as regional Teachers of the Year as part of the Texas Teacher of the Year Program.

Through this program, two teachers from among the district Teachers of the Year in each of the 20 ESCs are selected each year as the regional Elementary Teacher of the Year and Secondary Teacher of the Year. (Six finalists then compete for the two Texas Teacher of the Year titles.)

Currently, regional Teachers of the Year travel the state and region to share their expertise with fellow and future teachers, community groups, businesses and government officials.

“Although these teachers serve an important role, they do not have formal, official duties, resulting in missed opportunities for regions to benefit from their expertise and knowledge,” Eaton testified. “But by virtue of the structure of the Teacher of the Year Program, we have the perfect built-in mechanism to correct this by enabling placement of these teachers on ESC boards.”

Eaton concluded her testimony by stating that a “simple rule change” could result in “teachers’ invaluable perspective” being added to the ESC boards. However, she also noted that the ideal solution was legislation that formalizes the inclusion of teachers on ESC boards, because it would void the TEA rule that prohibits it.

In addition to examining the role of the regional ESCs and reviewing the types of services they provide to assist school districts with improving efficiencies, the July 17 Senate Education committee hearing focused on public school management practices, including the services districts share for academics and operations.

See video of Eaton’s testimony (forward to the 4:56:30 mark)