Joining Forces to Enrich Educational Opportunities for Students
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
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.
Why do we have a BOCES?
- 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
How are BOCES Governed?
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.
AEPA – www.aepacoop.org
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.