History of the ESC
Rich in heritage and continually expanding in service, the Lawrence County Educational Service Center is a vital link utilized by school districts in fulfilling the important responsibility of educating Ohio’s school children.
The Lawrence County Educational Service Center furnishes leadership and consulting services designed to strengthen local districts in areas they are unable to finance or staff independently. Children, parents, teachers, administrators, boards of education and other receive these services directly and indirectly.
The eighty-seven (88) county educational service centers provide supervisor, administrative, special education and other special services to approximately 790,000 pupils and approximately 40,000 teachers and administrators in the 375 local school districts in Ohio. In addition, many city and exempted village school districts depend on the county educational service center for certain special services obtained through contractual arrangements. In this regard, a recent accounting showed that there were 490 different contracts in effect between county governing board and the 238 city and exempted village districts. Also, numerous cooperative services such as data processing, unified purchasing and audio-visual repair services are provided to the city and exempted villages as well as local school districts. The county educational service center also serves regional educational needs. As the ideal structure to coordinate many if the state and federal programs, it assists school districts in meeting standards with services designed to supplement the local educational programs. Provided collectively, these supplemental services are supplied more economically and efficiently for all students. Without the coordination and expertise developed by the county educational service center, individual local school districts might not find feasible to accomplish many of the specialized programs.
The county educational service center budgets in Ohio total approximately $141,885,631.00, $112,634,526.00 of which is from state support and deductions from local school districts. This total of the 88 budgets does not include and estimated $5 million from county commissioners.
Before county supervision was provided, in Ohio, it was difficult for the state to secure valid statistical reports from the schools or to disseminate information back from the state to the schools because these reports had to be secured from the county auditors or from clerks of boards of education. Prior to the 1919 census, there were only sixty-nine (69) cities in Ohio and these cities enrolled only approximately one-third of all the pupils attending the public schools. Thus, even though public education was recognized as a function of the state, approximately two-thirds of the pupils were enrolled in schools with which the state had very little contact and the state had a practically very little influence in the type of educational program, which was prompted in these schools.
The county superintendent’s position in Ohio, therefore, emerged partially at least as an extension of the state school system and in some respects still serves in the capacity. State responsibilities for education could not be carried out effectively without maintaining contact with the local district school officials and staff. It was rather simple to maintain these contracts with sixty-nine (69) districts which had employed superintendents, but extremely difficult if not wholly impossible to maintain contracts with school officials and teachers in between 2,500 and 3,000 township, village and rural districts most of which had no superintendents. The county superintendent and board of education fulfilled this responsibility then and even today.
Two of the functions for which county school districts were created were the formation of larger, and more efficient local school districts and the notion that “every school child in Ohio might be enabled to attend a properly supervised school.” In 1914, there are approximately 80 city school districts and 2,594 other school districts. In 1980, there are 377 local, 49 exempted village, and 189 city school districts, a total of 615. It is a matter of record that county boards and superintendents have played a major role in this decrease.
The county governing boards have been instrumental in improving educational opportunities for rural youngsters. The matter if supervision of schools by county educational service centers is also a matter of record. The county educational service center has a distinguished history of dedication to the improvement of education for the young people of the state of Ohio and was created by the General Assembly sixty-six (66) years ago (1914), in order to meet the needs for continuity in the state’s education system. Since that time, county educational services centers have experienced a strong support from the Ohio General Assembly.
There are twelve (12) counties which contain only one local school district. In these counties, the county board members and superintendents serve as officials of the county and the local school district, in accordance with section 33111.051.
The county governing boards may operate fiscally independent of the county auditors. However, a majority of the county governing boards still using the county government for fiscal purposes.
A county educational service center’s relationship to the local system in similar to that of a central office to the various schools within the city system. The mode of operation and the emphasis on various mandatory and permissive functions are determined by the size and number of local districts in a county, as well as the philosophy and resourcefulness of the county superintendent and the board of education.
In the past twelve (12) years, (1983-95) the number if professional employees of county governing boards has tripled. This personal expansion has allowed a wide range of services to be provided not only for the local school districts but also for the independent districts.
The county school districts were created in 1914, approximately two years after the adoption of Section 3, of the Article VI, of the Ohio Constitution. Presumably, the office of county superintendent of schools was a partial fulfillment of this section: “Provision shall be made by law for the organization, administration and control of the public school system of the state supported by public funds.
Article VI, Section 3, of the Constitution was adopted by the electors of the state on September 3, 1912. On March 13, 1913, a law became effective which established a county board of education in each county. Specific suggestions as to a funding and qualifications for the county superintendent’s position were included. The 80th General Assembly in 1914 enacted laws in accordance with the commission recommendations, and thus, created the county school district and the office of the county superintendent of schools. Prior to 1914, the village and rural schools of Ohio in many instances received little or no supervision. From 1838 to 1853, the township clerk was ex-officio township superintendent and during a part of the period he might be paid the sum of $10.00 for each visit, which he made to a district school. Prior to 1853, the county auditor was ex-officio county superintendent of school. In 1853, this law was repealed and there was no form of supervision of the rural schools until 1972, when it was made permissible for township or rural schools to employ superintendents on either a full-time or part-time basis. However, very few township districts did so.
Effective July 1, 1995, the official name was changed from County Office of Education to County Educational Service Center and County Board of Education to County Governing Board of Educational Service Center.