school" so broadly as to include the School District's Headstart program. In the absence of such a record, the question whether the three statutory certification requirements set out in note 2, Supra apply to plaintiffs seems insufficiently ambiguous to warrant abstention here.
A fourth statutory provision section 2518 of the Public School Code complements the three sections just considered. It provides in pertinent part that "any school district . . . that after July 1, 1966 . . . shall have in its employ any person in a teaching . . . capacity who has not been certificated for such position by the Department of Public Instruction . . . shall forfeit an amount equal to the minimum salary mandated by law for the position less the product of said salary and the aid ratio of the district." Pa. Stat. Ann., tit. 24, § 25-2518 (Purdon Supp.1978). This provision reduces the state education subsidies payable to any school district that employs uncertified teachers. Does it also deprive plaintiffs' collective bargaining agreement of any legal force? Once again, no Pennsylvania decisions address the question. I tend to think that section 2518 does not invalidate plaintiffs' collective bargaining agreement, for two different reasons. First, although section 2518 is not limited by its terms to "public schools," one might suppose that it must be read in conjunction with the other certification requirements discussed earlier, and that it therefore applies only where those requirements apply, I. e., to teaching done in "public schools." Second, even if one reads section 2518 literally, it simply penalizes those school districts that do employ uncertified teachers, and it does not purport to invalidate all employment agreements involving such teachers. Again, as was the case with the other three certification requirements, I doubt that the law is sufficiently ambiguous to justify abstention.
I recognize, however, that the certification issue raised by these four provisions of the Public School Code is considerably less clear than the state-law issue considered earlier, I. e., whether the PERA authorized the School District to grant plaintiffs an expectation of continued employment for a fixed period. Thus, rather than resting my decision solely on the insufficient unclarity of the certification issue, I deem it advisable to consider the other two Pullman criteria in this context. As the following discussion should demonstrate, a thorough Pullman analysis here reveals no compelling basis for abstention.
Once the district court determines that unclear state-law issues underlie the federal constitutional issues, the second prerequisite to Pullman abstention is that "these state law issues must be amenable to an interpretation by the state courts that would obviate the need for or substantially narrow the scope of the adjudication of the constitutional claims." D'Iorio v. County of Delaware, 592 F.2d 681, 686 (3d Cir. 1978). Here, of course, we have the possibility that the state courts would rule that the certification requirements of the Public School Code Do apply to teachers in the School District's Headstart program, and that the collective bargaining agreement on which plaintiffs rely was therefore inconsistent with the Public School Code. Such a ruling might well destroy plaintiffs' efforts to derive a "property" interest from their collective bargaining agreement. In short, such a state-court determination might mean that I would not have to determine whether plaintiffs' suspension deprived them of "property" without procedural due process. Thus, it would appear that the second Pullman prerequisite is satisfied here.
But the Third Circuit's most recent Pullman decisions raise doubts on this point, and some discussion of those decisions is necessary here.
McKnight v. SEPTA
McKnight was a section 1983 action brought by a former special investigator employed in SEPTA's security division. The complaint alleged, Inter alia, that SEPTA had terminated McKnight's employment, thereby depriving him of "liberty" and "property" without due process of law. I granted defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint insofar as it rested on an asserted "liberty" interest claim, and I abstained from deciding "whether a SEPTA employee has a property interest in his job" under section 25(a) of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Act of 1963, Pa.Stat.Ann., tit. 66, § 2025(a) (Purdon Supp.1978). McKnight v. SEPTA, 438 F. Supp. 813 (E.D.Pa.1977), Rev'd in part and remanded, 583 F.2d 1229 (3d Cir. 1978). McKnight then appealed.
The court of appeals, in a panel opinion written by Judge Adams, reinstated McKnight's "liberty" claim and "strongly hinted that abstention was not appropriate."
In addressing the latter issue, the panel recognized that abstention might obviate the need to reach McKnight's procedural due process claim. To quote the panel opinion:
"But the question whether summary dismissal of an employee who has a property interest . . . violates due process would not appear to be a difficult or novel one. Rather, it involves the application of settled principles to a clear fact pattern."