Texas Education Agency

By: Dick Smith and Richard Allen Burns

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: August 13, 2020

In 1949 the legislature abolished the former State Board of Education and the office of State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and the Gilmer-Aikin Laws established the Texas Education Agency as the state's administrative agent to supervise the public school system. In 1972 the agency was composed of the State Board of Education (which included the State Board for Vocational Education), the Commissioner of Education (selected by the board), and professional, technical, and clerical staffs. The State Board of Education, authorized by a constitutional amendment in 1928 and organized in 1929, superseded earlier ex officio boards established in 1876 and 1866. Before the passage of the Gilmer-Aikin Laws, the board was composed of nine members, appointed by the governor for six-year terms. Later, under the 1949 statute, it was composed of twenty-one members elected for six-year terms, with one member being elected from each congressional district of the state as they were constituted in 1949. The State Board of Education was the policy-forming body for the public schools; it adopted operating budgets on the basis of legislative appropriations, established regulations for the accreditation of schools, executed contracts for the purchase of textbooks to be used in the public schools, and invested the Permanent School Fund. The Commissioner of Education, appointed by the board for a four-year term, was the secretary of the board and the chief executive officer of the Texas Education Agency. One of the commissioner's many duties was the issuance of teachers certificates. The professional, technical, and clerical staffs of the Texas Education Agency were under the direct supervision of the Commissioner of Education. In general, the agency set standards and supervised the public schools of the state. Funds from the federal government for programs related to public education were handled through the Texas Education Agency. It also administered the Texas School for the Deaf, the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and the state's vocational rehabilitation program. (see SPECIAL SCHOOLS AND SPECIAL EDUCATION DIVISION.) Education reforms in 1984 changed the scope and direction of TEA, which was responsible for carrying out the goals of reform; six years later, acting on a call from local educators for greater flexibility and freedom from restrictions inhibiting local efforts to improve student achievement, such reform shifted from a top-down, compliance-based concept to one stressing flexibility with accountability. Accordingly, TEA reorganized to make it more client-centered and field-based, emphasizing communication between local school districts and TEA through the newly established Field Service Unit and strengthening accountability and coordination with the state's twenty regional education services. In 1987 the legislature established the Legislative Education Board to oversee the implementation of state-mandated education reforms and to set public education policy, which TEA and the State Board of Education implement. TEA's divisions and their respective functions are: the Field Services Department, which provides communication between local school districts and the commissioner of education; the Department of Curriculum and Assessment, which administers the divisions of curriculum development, instructional outcomes assessment, and professional educator assessment; the Department of Professional Development, which focuses on achieving a comprehensive professional development system; the Office of Programs and Instructions, which supervises the division of accelerated instruction, bilingual education, special education, services for the deaf, and migrant education; the Office of Accountability, which supervises activities related to accreditation, student achievement analysis, compliance analysis, school district governance, special investigations, and institutional development; the Office of School Support Services, which directs policy development and supervises activities related to school support, audits, technology applications, and resource planning; and the Office of Operations, which provides services for all TEA employees and departments.

Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

  • Education
  • State Officials and Agencies
Time Periods:
  • Texas Post World War II

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Dick Smith and Richard Allen Burns, “Texas Education Agency,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 26, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/texas-education-agency.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

August 13, 2020