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Chicago Teachers Union v. Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board

May 27, 1998

CHICAGO TEACHERS UNION, IFT/AFT, AFL-CIO, ASSISTANT PRINCIPALS FUNCTIONAL GROUP, PETITIONERS-APPELLANTS,
v.
ILLINOIS EDUCATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD, RESPONDENT-APPELLEE, AND CHICAGO BOARD OF EDUCATION, CITY OF CHICAGO DISTRICT NO. 299, RESPONDENT-APPELLEE AND CROSS-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board Nos. 96 UC 0004 C 96 RC 0006 C

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Cahill

Public Act 89-15 added a section to article 34 of the Illinois School Code effective May 30, 1995. See 105 ILCS 5/34-8.1b (West 1996). The section, in effect, bars Chicago public school assistant principals from membership in the teachers' collective bargaining unit. The collective bargaining agreement signed by the Chicago Board of Education and the Chicago Teachers Union (the Union) took effect September 1, 1995, and included assistant principals as members of the bargaining unit.

The Union filed a unit clarification petition and a representation petition with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (IELRB). Both petitions sought to have the Chicago Teachers Union declared the collective bargaining representative for assistant principals employed by the Chicago Board of Education (Board of Education). The administrative law Judge (ALJ) dismissed the petitions. The ALJ found that assistant principals were managerial employees and so ineligible for membership in the teachers' union. The ALJ did not rely on section 34-8.1b of the School Code to reach his decision. Instead, he made an independent finding that assistant principals are "managerial employees" based on IELRB interpretations of section 2(o) of the Educational Labor Relations Act (115 ILCS 5/2(o)(West 1996)). The IELRB affirmed the ALJ's recommended decision and order.

The Union appealed directly to this court under section 16 of the Educational Labor Relations Act (115 ILCS 5/16 (West 1996)). The Union makes five arguments on appeal. The first three address the impact of section 34-8.1b on the case, while the last two address the findings of the ALJ independent of section 34-8.1b: (1) the recently enacted section 34-8.1b of the School Code (105 ILCS 5/34-8.1b (West 1996))--which prohibits Chicago assistant principals from belonging to the teachers' collective bargaining unit--is unconstitutional local legislation under article IV, section 13, of the Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. IV, §13); (2) section 34-8.1b is an unconstitutional infringement on the assistant principals' freedom of association under the first amendment of the United States Constitution (U.S. Const., amend I); (3) section 34-8.1b violates the principle of separation of powers under article IV, section 1, of the Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. IV, §1); (4) assistant principals should be recognized by the IELRB as a separate unit covered by the existing contract; and (5) the IELRB erred in finding that assistant principals are managerial employees under section 2(o) of the Educational Labor Relations Act (115 ILCS 5/2(o) (West 1996)).

The Board of Education filed a cross-appeal and argued: (1) the IELRB erred in finding that assistant principals are not supervisors under section 2(g) of the Educational Labor Relations Act; and (2) the IELRB erred in finding that former assistant principals who are now full-time teachers, but bear the title "assistant principal" and receive assistant principal stipends, could remain in the teachers' bargaining unit. Because we agree that the IELRB is empowered to decide whether assistant principals are managerial employees, we do not reach the issues the Union raises about the validity of the statute. The Board found independent reasons to declare assistant principals ineligible for teacher union membership.

The ALJ heard testimony that revealed that from 1967 to 1995, the Union was the exclusive representative of a bargaining unit that included full-time teachers, assistant principals, and other Board of Education employees. The Board of Education has about 44,000 employees, 40,000 of whom are teachers. The parties disagree about the number of assistant principal positions. The Union's petitions suggest that an assistant principals' unit would consist of 532 members. The Board of Education's records, on the other hand, show 701 such positions.

The Board of Education's current job description for assistant principals reads:

"Assistant Principals shall take charge of their respective schools when their principals *** are absent from the building for any reason. Assistant Principals shall be subject to the supervision of the principal *** and shall perform such duties the principal *** may direct. Such duties may include, but are not limited to, providing assistance in the organization, supervision, administration, and discipline of the schools. In the event there are multiple Assistant Principals in a school and the principal *** [is] absent, the principal shall designate which Assistant Principal shall be in charge."

Principals select assistant principals and set their work schedules and duties. When a principal resigns, retires or is discharged, the new principal may select new assistant principals. Assistant principals selected by an earlier principal lose their positions if not selected by the new principal.

The ALJ heard testimony from a number of principals and assistant principals. The testimony reveals that the duties of assistant principals vary from school to school. Some assistant principals teach full-time, with no other duties. Others have disciplinary responsibilities in addition to teaching. Still others are given only nonteaching duties. These include monitoring student attendance and tardiness, monitoring lunchrooms, observing and evaluating teachers, enforcing discipline procedures, interviewing prospective teachers, coordinating curriculum, managing budgets, administering specific programs, and overseeing school operations when the principal is absent.

After hearing the testimony, the ALJ dismissed the unit clarification petition. The ALJ held that he did not have authority to rule on the constitutional challenges to section 34-8.1(b) of the School Code. Since the Union's constitutional challenges to the statute were the only predicate for a unit clarification petition, there were no grounds in the petition the ALJ could address.

The ALJ then addressed the representation petition. The ALJ determined that assistant principals are not "supervisors" within the meaning of section 2(g) of the Educational Labor Relations Act, but are "managerial employees" under section 2(o). The ALJ reasoned that assistant principals are not supervisors because they do not have the authority to hire, discharge, reward or punish teachers. But assistant principals are managerial employees because the primary role of the assistant principal is that of a qualified executive employee who assists the principal in running the school. He further reasoned that since assistant principals serve only as long as the principal who appointed them, their interests are aligned with those of management.

Both the Union and the Board of Education filed exceptions to the ALJ's decision. The IELRB affirmed most of the ALJ's findings. The Board differed only in ruling that employees who hold the title of assistant principal, but who in fact teach full-time with no managerial duties, are not managerial employees. The IELRB found that these employees are not excluded from the teachers' union by the language of the new section 34-8.1b of the School Code because neither their job description nor their actual duties requires a "Type 75 General Administrative Certificate."

The IELRB argues on appeal that we need not address the constitutional challenges to section 34-8.1b raised by the Union. Constitutional questions will not be considered if a case can be disposed of on other grounds. Lyng v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Protective Ass'n, 485 U.S. 439, 445, 99 L. Ed. 2d 534, 544, 108 S. Ct. 1319, 1323 (1988); In re Estate of Longeway, 133 Ill. 2d 33, 44, 549 N.E.2d 292 (1990). The IELRB argues that if we affirm the decision that assistant principals are managerial employees, then the Board of Education is not ...


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