Friday, May 18, 2007

Patterson Park v. Teachers Union (Ct. of Appeals)

Filed May 11, 2007--Opinion by Judge Lynne Battaglia.

The Baltimore Teachers Union ("the Union") and the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners ("City Board") sought review of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City's decision that the Maryland State Board of Education was able to grant waivers to the provisions of Section 9-108(a) of the Education Article dealing with public charter schools, and that the State Board had original jurisdiction over Section 9-106(b) waiver applications. Conversely, Patterson Park Public Charter School, Inc. and the Midtown Academy, Inc. sought review of the Circuit Court's decision to reverse the grant of Section 9-108(b) waivers by the State Board on grounds that the Unions were denied the opportunity to participate in the waiver application process, and also of the Circuit Court's decision that the State Board appropriately denied Midtown Academy's application for waivers of Section 4-103(a) and 6-201.

Before any proceedings in the intermediate appellate court, the Court of Appeals, on its own initiative, issued a writ of certiorari. The Court determined that, based upon the clear language of Section 9-106 of the Education Article, the State Board may only grant waivers of provisions applying to all public schools, and not those specific to just public charter schools, and therefore Title 9's provisions were not subject to waiver under Section 9-106(b). The Court further concluded that, because local boards of education have no authority to waive State laws and regulations, they had no jurisdiction over Section 9-106(b) waiver applications implicating State laws or regulations over which the State Board has original jurisdiction.

The Court also held that the Unions, as the exclusive representative of Baltimore City school employees, had a statutory and fiduciary duty to represent the Baltimore City public school employees in the waiver proceedings, and thus the State Board erred by not giving the Unions proper notice or opportunity to be heard in the waiver proceedings. The Court further concluded that the State Board's decision denying waivers requested by Midtown Academy under Sections 4-103(a) and 6-201 was within its authority and was not inconsistent with law. The Court, therefore, vacated the Circuit Court's ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings before the State Board of Education consistent with its holding.

The full opinion is available in PDF.