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03/29/89 the Board of Education of v. Warren Township High

March 29, 1989






538 N.E.2d 524, 128 Ill. 2d 155, 131 Ill. Dec. 149 1989.IL.410

Appeal from the Appellate Court for the Second District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County, the Hon. Jack Hoogasian and Hon. Alvin Ira Singer, Judges, presiding.


JUSTICE CLARK delivered the opinion of the court. JUSTICE WARD took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.


In the case of Board of Education v. Compton (1988), 123 Ill. 2d 216, we held that the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act (the Act) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 48, par. 1701 et seq.) divests the circuit courts of jurisdiction to vacate or enforce arbitration awards in the context of public educational labor disputes. This case raises the question of whether circuit courts retain the power to enjoin such arbitration. We answer this question in the negative.

In the circuit court of Lake County, appellee, the board of education of Warren Township High School District 121 (the School District), sought declaratory and injunctive relief against appellants, Warren Township High School Federation of Teachers, Local 504, IFT/AFL-CIO (the Union), and the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (the Board). The circuit court issued a preliminary injunction enjoining the Union from arbitrating the grievance of Ms. Judith Frank, a non-tenured teacher who had been dismissed by the School District. It also preliminarily enjoined the Board from conducting a hearing to determine whether the School District's refusal to submit Ms. Frank's grievance to arbitration constituted an unfair labor practice. In the cases which are now designated by docket numbers 66361 and 66964, the Union and the Board each appealed the grant of the preliminary injunctions to the appellate court. The appellate court consolidated the two appeals and affirmed. (162 Ill. App. 3d 676.) We granted the appellants' petitions for leave to appeal (107 Ill. 2d R. 315(a)) and again consolidated the two cases. In the meantime, the circuit court issued final injunctions against each of the appellants. In the cases which are now numbered 66981 and 67050, respectively, the Union and the Board moved for direct appeals from the circuit court's final injunctive orders (107 Ill. 2d R. 302(b)). We granted each motion and consolidated all four cases. The board of trustees of Community College District No. 508 was granted leave to file an amicus curiae brief in support of the School District. Leave was also granted to the Illinois Education Association-NEA and the Prairie State College Federation of Teachers, Local 3816, IFT-AFT, AFL-CIO, to file amicus curiae briefs in support of the Board and the Union.

The facts of the case are not in dispute. During the school years 1984-85 and 1985-86, the School District employed Ms. Judith Frank as a non-tenured teacher, with probationary status. In April 1986 the School District's superintendent of schools notified Ms. Frank that she would not be rehired for the 1986-87 school year and that her termination would become effective in June 1986.

The Union, the duly recognized bargaining unit for teachers in District 121, then filed a grievance on Ms. Frank's behalf. The grievance alleged that Ms. Frank's discharge violated article V, sections A6 through A9, of the collective-bargaining agreement in effect for the years 1985-88. Article V, sections A6 through A9, establishes certain procedures for the evaluation of probationary teachers.

After the School District denied the grievance, the Union filed a demand for binding arbitration with the American Arbitration Association in June 1986, pursuant to article IX of the collective-bargaining agreement, and requested that Ms. Frank be restored to her former position. On February 2, 1987, the School District notified the Union that it would not submit to binding arbitration because it believed that the subject matter of the grievance concerned a discretionary, non-delegable power belonging to the School District under the Illinois School Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 122, par. 1-1 et seq.) and was, therefore, inarbitrable. On February 13, 1987, the Union filed an unfair labor practice charge with the Board based on the School District's refusal to submit to arbitration. After investigating the claim, the Board issued a complaint and set the matter for hearing on June 4, 1987.

On February 25, 1987, the School District filed a complaint in the circuit court, seeking a declaratory judgment that the grievance was inarbitrable and a preliminary injunction to prevent the Union from arbitrating the grievance. It later filed an amended complaint seeking to enjoin the Board from conducting its hearing. On June 3, 1987, the circuit court issued the preliminary injunction. The order enjoined the Union and Ms. Frank from proceeding with arbitration and also enjoined the Board from proceeding on the unfair labor practice hearing until the circuit court could decide the merits of the Union's claim.

On appeal, the appellate court affirmed the trial court's orders, holding that the Act does not divest the circuit courts of their traditional power to decide whether a particular grievance is arbitrable. (162 Ill. App. 3d at 681-82.) The court based its decision on the absence of express language in the Act divesting the circuit courts of their jurisdiction over questions of arbitrability. (162 Ill. App. 3d at 681.) The court also assumed, based upon its holding in Board of Education v. Rockford Education Association (1986), 150 Ill. App. 3d 198, that unlawful refusals to arbitrate and attempts to arbitrate inarbitrable questions were not unfair labor practices falling within the purview of the Board. (162 Ill. App. 3d at 680-81.) As a result, the court concluded that the circuit courts retained their jurisdiction under the Act to decide the arbitrability of disputes arising from collective-bargaining agreements. (162 Ill. App. 3d at 681-82.) The court declined to reach the ultimate question of whether the dispute was arbitrable. 162 Ill. App. 3d at 682.

On April 28, 1988, after the appellate court decision and after we had granted the Union's petition for leave to appeal, the circuit court issued a final order, enjoining the Union from proceeding with arbitration and the Board from proceeding upon the unfair labor practice complaint. Citing the appellate court decisions in this case and Rockford Education Association, the circuit court held that it had jurisdiction to determine whether the dispute was arbitrable. It also held that, pursuant to the School Code, the School District had nondelegable authority over probationary teachers and, therefore, the dispute over Ms. Frank's dismissal was inarbitrable. Shortly after the circuit court's decision, we granted the Board's petition for leave to appeal from the decision of the appellate court. We then granted the motions of the Union and the Board for direct appeal of the circuit court's order, and all four cases were ...

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