Appeal from Beaver County Common Pleas Court, Honorable Thomas C. Mannix, Judge.
Richard E. Davis, Sol., Midland, for appellee, Midland Borough School Dist.
James L. Crawford, Lisa K. Essman, Harrisburg, for appellant/appellee, Labor Relations Bd.
William J. Maikovich, New Brighton, for appellant, Midland Educ. Ass'n.
Craig and Doyle, JJ., and Kalish, Senior Judge.
[ 126 Pa. Commw. Page 538]
When a school district resolves to send ("tuition out") all of its students in grades 7-12 to a neighboring school district for their public education, is that action subject to collective bargaining with the teachers' union under section 701 of the Public Employee Relations Act (PERA),*fn1 or is it a matter of inherent managerial policy under section 702,*fn2 subject only to meet-and-discuss procedures?
In agreement with the decision of the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB) that such an action is equivalent to contracting out bargaining unit work and is therefore a subject for collective bargaining, this court reverses the decision of the Court of Common Pleas of Beaver County which set aside the PLRB's final order.
The PLRB had dismissed exceptions to the hearing examiner's decision and adopted his conclusion that the district had committed unfair labor practices in violation of PERA section 1201(a)(1), (5), 43 P.S. §§ 1101.1201(a)(1), (5), and that the district must rescind the tuitioning-out agreement, reinstate the work of the bargaining unit, and reinstate furloughed teachers with backpay.
[ 126 Pa. Commw. Page 539]
The factual foundation of this case resides in the PLRB's findings, which are determinative where supported by substantial evidence, as they are here. Judicial judgment is not substituted for the expertise of the PLRB. Cumberland Valley School District Appeal, 483 Pa. 134, 394 A.2d 946 (1978). Although the trial court articulated its own findings "[f]rom a review of the Record," the proper source of the essentially undisputed facts is the PLRB's findings, here derived from the hearing examiner's proposed decision, adopted by the PLRB.
According to those findings, severe economic distress in Midland Borough began in 1982, with the cutback and ultimate closing of the steel company which was the major local employer. The appellee, the Midland Borough School District, asked the Midland Education Association, the teachers' union which is the appellant here, to reopen the collective bargaining agreement and accept a wage freeze. In 1984, the new school district superintendent faced $900,000 of unpaid debts, and severe financial problems remained in 1986.
After declining to give the union specific financial information with respect to the alternative of tuitioning out students, the district's directors, on April 9, 1986, adopted a resolution to send its students in grades 7-12 on a tuition basis to the neighboring Beaver Area School District. The terms of the agreement are that it extends for five years, through the 1990-1991 school year. The union, which became aware of the resolution only when it was passed, demanded collective bargaining on the issue, along with rescission ...