Union's Role in Charter School Controversy

In United Teachers Los Angeles v. Los Angeles Unified School District, 54 Cal.4th 504 (2012), the California Supreme Court held that if a collective bargaining agreement directly conflicts with provisions of the state Education Code, a trial court can refuse to order arbitration under that agreement. The court did not hold that the provisions at issue did, in fact, conflict with the code, but rather, remanded the case to the trial court for that determination. The case is significant because it confirms that, under proper circumstances, a teachers and/or administrators union can have a meaningful role in the establishment and administration of a charter school. The court went on to hold, however, that "while representation and collective bargaining do have a place in charter schools, the approval or denial of a charter petition may not be controlled by a collective bargaining agreement." The court reviewed the collective bargaining agreement in great detail, but left to the trial court on remand the ultimate determination as to which provisions the union was invoking, and whether those provisions (once identified) run afoul of the Education Code. Whenever collective bargaining agreements are negotiated, it is crucial to keep the code in mind, for if a negotiated clause conflicts with one of the applicable code sections, there may be no remedy in court or arbitration, should the school district later violate the agreed upon provision. Our firm regularly advise school leaders about issues pertinent to public and private education. Feel free to contact us if you have an issue in this important area.