Since 1967, Minnesota school districts have been participating in formalized cooperative efforts. The concept of cooperative educational programs and services spread rapidly as educational costs escalated and the need for more efficient uses of resources became imperative. During the 1967-68 school year, school districts in several regions of the state formed Educational Research and Development Councils (ERDCs) to meet common needs in a cost efficient manner. These ERDCs were funded through federal ESEA, TITLE III Funds.
State Legislation was introduced in 1971 and again in 1973 which would have established a system of Minnesota Educational Service Area (MESAs) to serve as vehicles for providing and promoting educational cooperation among school districts throughout the state. While neither of these efforts were successful, the 1973 Legislature did authorize the establishment of one pilot Educational Service Area (ESA) in southwest and west central Minnesota. This unit was created to "assist in meeting specific educational needs of children and participating school districts." Further, the ESA was to "supplement the educational programs of local school districts in areas of specific needs or areas of low incidence of pupils and enrollments."
In 1975 legislation was again introduced to establish regional cooperative units. Despite a unanimous affirmative in both houses of the legislature, the bill failed passage on a technicality. Finally, in February 1976, a bill was enacted to authorize establishment of nine regional units to be called Educational Cooperative Service Units (ECSUs, pronounced "X-sue").
In 1995 the Minnesota Legislature passed a bill that would change the name of the Educational Cooperative Service Units to Service Cooperatives (SCs). The purpose of this change was to better clarify and encourage an expanded customer base due to 1992 legislation.
December 2001, as governmental units of the State of MN, five SC's created the Minnesota Service Agency. This agency is made pursuant to the Joint Exercise of Powers Act, Minnesota Statue 471.59 and, Minnesota Statute 123A.21, Subd. 11.
The purpose of the Joint Powers is to provide for the creation and operation of an organization known as the The Minnesota Service Cooperatives, through which the parties may jointly and cooperatively provide various programs and services for their members.