Title

Connecticut Regional Educational Service Centers: Equity, efficiency, effectiveness and the political culture

Date of Completion

January 1999

Keywords

Education, Administration

Degree

Ph.D.

Abstract

For thirty years, Connecticut's Regional Educational Service Centers (RESCs) have provided programs and services to school districts and the State Department of Education. Their classification as cooperative educational service agencies is partially based on enabling legislation which provides for low levels of organizational stability and legitimacy. Local and state decisionmakers voluntarily choose whether or not to cooperate through a RESC. ^ Research about educational service agencies (ESAs) nationally has focused on their contributions to effectiveness, equity and efficiency. The extent to which ESAs realize this potential can be affected by the political culture(s) in which they operate. There has been no research on Connecticut RESCs since the late 1970's, and none that has dealt with the potentially complex relationship between the equity-efficiency-effectiveness paradigm and political cultures. ^ This multi-site case study investigated how the quest for effective, efficient and equitable programs and services provided by RESCs might be affected by the political culture based on the perceptions of state, regional, and local policy élite. Preliminary insights and hypotheses were explored and tested through critical incidents that emerged from interviews. While policy élite generally believed that most RESC programs and services contributed to equity, efficiency and effectiveness, they also expressed confusion, conflict and/or mistrust about RESCs as organizations. These inter-organizational phenomenon seemed to be explained through the lens of the prevailing political culture, and the shared assumptions and individual value preferences of policy élite. In one area there was an apparent contradiction between policy and decisionmakers' values and a major category of programs and services provided by RESCs. ^ As organizations redefine themselves, the potential for tension and ambiguity about roles, responsibilities and organizational boundaries may increase. The findings from this study have implications for local, regional and state leaders who want to better understand the myriad complex factors that affect educational policy and decisionmaking, and who are interested in using such information towards the goal of continuously improving the ways they do business together. ^