Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) are an important and vital part of the public educational system in Colorado. The purpose of this document is to provide an overview of the role of BOCES and the services they provide districts and students across Colorado.
BOCES services are those needed by children, their families, and school personnel, which can be more efficiently provided across school districts; examples of such services are provided below. Better understanding of the process will potentially emphasize the important contributions of BOCES to the educational system of Colorado.
Colorado’s BOCES (or Educational Services agencies) are unique in that they are an extension of the local member school districts. A BOCES in Colorado exists at the discretion of its members and provides only those programs and services authorized by its members.
The BOCES Name
BOCES is an acronym made up of the individual letters of the longer title—Board of Cooperative (Educational) Services. It is pronounced BO-Sees for a more simple and concise term. The statutory name of BOCES is Board of Cooperative Services, as set forth by Title 22, Article 5, C.R.S., Boards of Cooperative Services Act of 1965.
What is the legal status of the BOCES?
BOCES were established under the Boards of Cooperative Services Act of 1965 and upon adoption, the General Assembly declared: “…this article is enacted for the general improvement and expansion of educational services of the public schools in the state of Colorado; for the creation of boards of cooperative services wherever feasible for purposes of enabling two or more school districts to cooperate in furnishing services authorized by law…”
Are BOCES Unique to Colorado?
Yes and no. 45 states have established what are commonly known as Educational Service Agencies (ESA’s) or Regional Educational Service Agencies (RESA’s).
In many states these agencies function at a regional level between the State Educational Agency and the local school district. It may serve as an extension of the State Educational Agency or it may operate as an independent agency from either state or local control.Still in other states, the RESA or ESA have specific duties and tasks assigned by the State. They are governed by an elected board, which has the authority to levy a tax, receive direct financial support and provide mandated services to local school districts.
The First BOCES
On May 23, 1966, the school board presidents of the fourteen school districts in the San Luis Valley met and established the first BOCES in Colorado. Today, there are 19 BOCES in Colorado with several established as Special Purpose BOCES providing limited programs or a single service. Most of the BOCES in Colorado are general purpose in nature and provide a broad range of services and programs.
Can A BOCES Conduct Independent Programs?
No. Any programs or activities operated by a BOCES must be approved and authorized by its Board of Directors. Some programs may be for all members while other activities may be for a smaller number of BOCES members.
BOCES exist to supply educational services to two or more school districts that alone cannot afford the service, or find it advantageous and cost-effective to cooperate with other districts. These services represent a financial commitment that is best met by several districts sharing costs and programs. In some instances, BOCES also operate as Special Education Administrative Units, in which Colorado Revised Statutes require a minimum number of students or participants in order to qualify.
The following examples are not intended to limit or define the scope of a BOCES, but rather are illustrative of the variety of services currently provided:
- Special Education
- Curriculum/Staff Development
- Migrant Educational Fiscal Operations
- Alternative Schools/Programs
- Federally Funded, Specialized Programs Including NCLB
- Standards and Assessment Support
- Cooperative Purchasing Computer
- Technology Support
- Data Management and Utilization
- Vocational Education
- Alternative Schools
- Gifted and Talented Coordination
- Alternative Licensure Programs
- Grant Management
The success of the BOCES concept is rooted in its cooperative, service-driven philosophy. Each BOCES exists because the school districts it serves see the value of the services provided. Individual districts may lack the personnel or the fiscal resources required to provide a broad range of administrative and student services. By pooling resources, districts reduce costs, avoid duplication, and provide for a more comprehensive range of services and programs.
Being service-driven, BOCES have the flexibility to respond quickly to the evolving needs of today’s changing student population. Programs can be developed, training provided, or outside expertise engaged as situations arise. BOCES also understand that school districts do not exist in isolation and most reach out to engage the community–at-large. To that end, the BOCES work in partnership with colleges, libraries, health care providers, mental health professionals and others.
How are BOCES Governed?
Each BOCES is governed by a Board of Directors. Each legal member of the BOCES appoints one of its board members to serve on the BOCES Board. An alternate is usually appointed as well. Additionally any post secondary member of the BOCES may have its governing board appoint its assigned member of the BOCES Board. The Board is required by law to meet at least four times a year.
The Board of Directors appoints an Executive Director who serves as the person responsible for the administering the affairs of the BOCES. It is important to note that since the BOCES serves its member school districts, there is a need for communication and information among the members. Each BOCES has an Advisory Council composed of the Superintendent or his/her designee. This group advises the Executive Director and Board, and assists in planning and implementing the programs and services that will be made available to the member districts. The Advisory Council usually meets monthly and provides critical input into the BOCES operations and its direction.
What Types Of BOCES Are There?
With the flexibility in the law that two or more districts can create a BOCES to furnish services, there are three basic types of BOCES in Colorado. Some serve only as a special education administrative unit; others serve only as specialized BOCES providing services such as professional development, risk management insurance, operate an alternative school, or provide digital learning programs, or operate digital schools. The third type is a mixture of the first two that serve as a special education administrative unit as well as provide an array of different services for its member districts.
How are BOCES Financed?
Participating member districts financially support BOCES. The members may also, through pooled plans and resources, submit a common application for programs that allow specific financial support for BOCES. Originally seventeen BOCES received ten thousand dollars annually; in later years specifically designated for staff development. Although the number of funded BOCES was increased in 2001, the 2003 General Assembly voted to discontinue all basic state funding to BOCES, which was reinstated in 2005.
What can a BOCES do?
- Maximize the impact of available dollars through collaborative funding.
- Reduce duplication of programs, personnel and services.
- Assist members in meeting responsibilities for mandated programs.
- Contribute to equalizing educational opportunities for pupils in diverse schools.
- Provide for the services of highly skilled resource personnel on a cost efficient basis.
- Promote inter-district communication and idea sharing.
Successful BOCES Systems...
- Serve in a non-regulatory function.
- Receive ongoing local, state and federal funding, and know how to leverage those dollars for the greatest impact.
- Have a close working relationship with their state education department.
- Embrace local control in how they are governed and in the services they provide.
- Are held accountable and audited by independent private auditors.
- Are not hamstrung by overly burdensome state regulations.
AESA - www.aesa.us
The Association of Educational Service Agencies (AESA) is a professional organization serving educational service agencies (ESAs) in 45 states; there are 553 agencies nationwide with over 180,000 employees. AESA is in the position to reach well over 80% of the public school districts, over 83% of the private schools, over 80% certified teachers, and more than 80% non-certified school employees, and well over 80% public and private school students. Annual budgets for ESAs come to $14.7 billion. AESA’s membership is agency wide and includes all ESA employees and board members.
The Association of Educational Purchasing Agencies (AEPA) is a group of Educational Service Agencies/ political subdivisions organized through a Memorandum of Understanding between all participating member states for the purpose of establishing a universal bid and awarded operating contract. The operating contract is based on the combined purchasing volume of AEPA participating agencies. All bids follow the competitive bidding requirements including local solicitation. Of the many advantages to this unique purchasing group are the combined human resources representing purchasing/bidding expertise, current and past vendor relationships, past experience and overall vision with regard to the specific needs of the qualified customers within each represented state. This group started with ten states in 2000 and now has grown to 23 states representing over 25.5 million students.