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Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES).    more selected entries

Regional organizations that enable school districts to share resources. BOCES were created in 1948 as part of a broader effort by the New York State Education Department (SED) to reduce costs, improve educational quality and equity, and enable more effective central control of the state's 5,112 school districts, which were then grouped into 181 supervisory districts. The quality of education and the available resources varied widely among school districts, the number of which had already been reduced by almost half since the SED was created in 1904. Though the 1947 Master Plan for School District Reorganization in New York State called for reducing the number of school districts to 560, further consolidation was resisted because of concerns about loss of local control, transportation, expense, and the diminishment of community.

A 1948 law created intermediate districts (IDs) as formal arrangements by which school districts could share educational and administrative services and costs. IDs were expected to take over the functions of the supervisory districts, reducing their number to 65, each including at least 5,000 students, and to promote consolidation of schools and districts. This legislation also created BOCES as a temporary transition to get wary districts accustomed to working together before forming an ID. BOCES were intended as vehicles for the sharing of specialized staff, such as nurses, and unlike IDs they could not own or lease buildings, did not replace district superintendencies, and had no authority to tax or to expand their functions or domain.

As federal and state legislation during the 1960s and 1970s mandated an increasing number of specialized services, particularly vocational programs and services to pupils with disabilities, BOCES became the vehicle for providing them. BOCES also began to offer clerical and administrative services, research, professional development for teachers, administrators, and school boards, distance learning, adult education, foreign languages, and gifted and talented programs. In 1967 BOCES were authorized to purchase and operate facilities. The law that created IDs was repealed in 1972, BOCES having become a de facto replacement for them. Since 1988 all BOCES programs and services must be approved by the commissioner of education, and since 1997 BOCES have been required to provide annual reports on pupil performance, programs, and expenditures per pupil.

BOCES are created by the commissioner of education at the request of component school boards and are governed by a board of 5 to 15 members elected for three-year terms by those school boards. The BOCES board appoints the district superintendent, subject to the commissioner's approval, to serve as its chief executive officer. Funding for BOCES primarily comes from contracts with member districts for specific services, with the state or federal government, or with other specified agencies. BOCES have gradually become coterminous with supervisory districts, which have been reduced to 38, equal to the number of BOCES, and they have aided in reducing the number of school districts, as of 2000, to 705. BOCES have played an important role in the development and consolidation of a comprehensive, statewide system of elementary and high school education, providing needed services to rural areas and helping to mediate between state and local governments. The SED has advanced its goal of creating a unified, comprehensive, and equitable school system, though it has not yet achieved its desired degree of consolidation and administrative control, in part because of the effectiveness of BOCES in offering services to rural areas and mediating between local and state control.

Kachris, Peter Thomas. "A History of the District Superintendency and BOCES, 1910-1982" (PhD diss, Syracuse Univ, 1987)

Pugh, Thomas J. "Rural School Consolidation in New York State, 1795-1993" (PhD diss, Syracuse Univ, 1994)

Thomas J. Mauhs-Pugh


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