Policy Service History and Background

Policy Service overview

TASB Policy Service provides expert and affordable help to school districts throughout the state in policy development and maintenance. Established in 1975, Policy Service now has 1,028 member school districts (1,023 regular school districts plus five statutory and special districts).

Originally the primary resource for this service was the TASB Policy Reference Manual, a comprehensive, well-organized, and regularly updated compilation of federal and state law, case law, State Board of Education rules, and other legal authority affecting the governance of Texas school districts. First published in 1976, the manual continues to be an essential reference tool for school officials, school attorneys, Texas legislators, and others in understanding the increasingly complex and detailed legal requirements for local school district governance. The manual is now published on the Internet and is available to TASB members that elect to join Policy Service.

A parallel publication—the Community College Policy Reference Manual—is provided for Texas community colleges. It serves as the springboard to Localized Policy Manuals created in collaboration between a policy consultant and community college. Nearly half of the 50 community colleges in Texas have undertaken or committed to localization projects.

Another parallel publication called the Policy Reference Manual for Education Service Centers is provided for education service centers. As in the case of school districts and community colleges, this reference tool contains legally referenced policies and exhibits providing the framework for the general governance of education service centers. This resource originally premiered as the Model Policy Manual for ESCs in December 1996. In the last ten years, however, enough ESCs have localized their manuals that now it makes more sense to provide the Policy Reference Manual instead of the old collection of Models.

Localized Policy Manuals

Although the Policy Reference Manual remains at the center of our organizational and classification schemes for policies, at the district level it has largely been supplanted in day-to-day use by Localized Policy Manuals. Policy Service collaborates with local districts (and community colleges and education services centers) in the development and maintenance of Localized Policy Manuals, and this work is now the heart of the relationship between Policy Service and the district. All but five of Texas's school districts have adopted TASB Localized Policy Manuals and look to Policy Service for ongoing maintenance of these manuals.

Updating services

A feature of Policy Service that clearly distinguishes it from similar efforts in other states is the extent to which Policy Service guides the maintenance of Localized Policy Manuals. Maintenance has two components: (1) TASB-prompted policy changes required by changes in statute, regulation, or case law and (2) locally initiated policy changes to accommodate changing local needs and priorities.

The first component is accomplished through the numbered update system (e.g., Update 82); the second, through a process called Local District Updates. Regarding the first, Policy Service relies heavily on TASB Legal Services for guidance in assessing legal changes and preparing two to three numbered updates annually to the TASB Policy Reference Manual. Immediately thereafter, policy consultants carefully inspect each of the Localized Policy Manuals, as stored in the division's computer system, to determine the impact of changing legal authority on those manuals. As a result, an individualized updating packet of appropriate legal and local policies is prepared for each of the localized districts. A parallel updating mechanism is in place for community colleges and for education service centers.

The Local District Update process focuses on locally initiated policy changes, changes that are driven by local policy issues rather than by statutory change. Starting from a sample provided by a TASB policy consultant, or with its own language, the district submits the policy draft to Policy Service for editorial and legal review and incorporation into Policy Service's computer records. Approximately 200 such submissions are handled monthly. It is critical that every locally initiated policy change be submitted as a Local District Update to ensure that the computer record (i.e., the basis for recommendations presented at the numbered updates) is a correct reflection of the district's manual.

Policy On Line®

Since the late 1980s Policy Service has provided districts with electronic alternatives to hard copy manuals. Initially introduced were custom applications, both Macintosh and IBM compatible, which were replaced in 1996 by an Internet version. More than ninety percent of districts have implemented Policy On Line.

Policy Review Sessions

Even the best maintained manuals need periodic overhaul and their users retrained. A Policy Review Session performs this function; it entails a comprehensive review of the policies to ensure that they are up-to-date and consistent with changing local priorities, resources, and conditions, as well as a local workshop on the contents and use of the manual. It also provides an ideal opportunity for the district to avail itself of Policy On Line.

Administrative regulations

A valuable tool in the development of local administrative procedures is the Regulations Resource Manual, first published in 1985 and updated annually. Now published on the Internet and available to all Policy Service members, the manual contains useful language for administrative procedures and forms fulfilling the requirements of policy and serves as a strong starting point for local regulation development.

Telephone consulting

One essential element of Policy Service is telephone access to consultants for guidance on emerging policy issues, for policy samples, for assistance in drafting local policy statements, and for information or clarification regarding current policy requirements. Consultants answer more than 90 such calls for assistance daily and provide hundreds of requests for policy samples annually.

Student handbooks

In 1987, responding to districts' requests for assistance in the development of student handbooks, Policy Service produced and issued the first TASB Model Student Handbook that member districts can adjust to suit their particular practices. Provisions in the highly acclaimed handbook are keyed to relevant policy codes in the editorial notes. The handbook is updated annually in April and has served as a model for other state school board associations throughout the U.S. It is distributed, at no additional charge, to all Policy Service members via the Internet.

More resources

Because regular communication to members is essential to the mission of Policy Service, we also issue a variety of publications, such as: Starting Points, policy development tool kits; Policy Alerts, advisories on pressing issues; and other special topic publications, such as the TASB Model Student Code of Conduct, which is available in an editable electronic format in both English and Spanish. All these documents are provided to members at no additional charge.

For further information about any of these services and resources, please contact TASB Policy Service at 800.580.7529 or 512.467.0222.