Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County in the case of Upper Bucks County Vocational Technical School Education Association, Winfield J. Hill, John Graf and Jamie Wescott v. Upper Bucks County Area Vocational-Technical School Joint Committee, Upper Bucks County Area Vocational-Technical School Joint Board, Palisades School District, Quakertown School District and Pennridge School District, No. 81-02489-06-1.
Catherine C. O'Toole, for appellants.
John J. Hart, with him John M. Demcisak and Claire G. Biehn, for appellees.
Donna S. Weldon, Counsel, and Michael A. Davis, Chief Counsel, for Amicus Curiae, Department of Education.
President Judge Crumlish, Jr. and Judges Rogers, Blatt, MacPhail and Doyle. Opinion by Judge Doyle. Judge Mencer did not participate in the decision in this case.
This is an appeal from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County dated May 27, 1981, which dismissed, in response to the filing of preliminary objections,*fn1 an action for a declaratory judgment on the question of whether the Upper Bucks County Vocational-Technical School Joint Board (Board)*fn2 must
schedule at least 180 half*fn3 days of instruction at the Upper Bucks County Vocational-Technical School (School) during each school year. The court based its dismissal on its conclusion that the plaintiffs to the action, the appellants here,*fn4 lacked standing to pursue the declaratory relief they requested. For the reasons which follow, we will reverse and remand.
The factual nexus which gave rise to the proceedings before us is undisputed. From September 3 through September 24, 1980, members of the Upper Bucks County Vocational-Technical School Education Association (Association) engaged in a lawful strike of the School which resulted in the loss of sixteen instructional days. Following this strike, the Board, which had initially adopted a school calendar providing for 180 half days of instruction, adopted a new calendar for the 1980-81 school year which provided for only 164 half days of instruction. The Association, believing that this shortening of the school year was in violation of the terms of the Board's Program Plan Application agreement with the Pennsylvania Department of Education (Department) and/or the provisions of Section 1501 of the Public School Code of 1949, 24 P.S. § 15-1501,*fn5 subsequently contacted the Department,
and upon being informed that the Department intended to take no legal action, joined with the individual appellants here in filing an action for declaratory judgment. This action was subsequently amended to join the Palisades, Quakertown and Pennridge school districts as indispensable parties, and, as we noted above, was subsequently dismissed, upon the filing of preliminary objections, based on the court's conclusion that the plaintiffs lacked standing to seek the declaratory relief they requested. In dismissing this action, the court concluded (1) that the individual plaintiffs lacked standing in their capacity as residents of the participating school districts since they were neither vocational-technical students nor the parents of such students, (2) that the individual plaintiffs lacked standing in their capacity as taxpayers since "compliance or noncompliance with the 180-day rule would have no pecuniary effect upon a non-teacher taxpayer[,]" and (3) that the plaintiff Winfield J. Hill and the Association lacked standing in their respective capacities as a teacher at the School and as a representative of teachers at the School since "the teachers have other remedies to enforce whatever rights they have against the school board for the days lost. . . ." The present appeal followed.
Before this Court, the appellants allege that the court of common pleas erred as a matter of law by concluding that they lacked standing to seek the ...