Court of Appeals Affirms Port Huron ULP Case

Kacie Kefgen

By Kacie Kefgen, MASB Assistant Director of Labor Relations and Legal Services

DashBoard, March 23, 2016

The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed the Michigan Employment Relations Commission’s decision that the Port Huron Area School District did not breach its duty to bargain when it shifted from employing its own school psychologists to utilizing the St. Clair County Regional Services Association for those services without bargaining the matter with the Port Huron Education Association.1

District Decision to Shift Services

Seeking cost-saving opportunities, the district sought to shift its special education programming to the RESA, including the work of school psychologists, whose work had been covered by the collective bargaining agreement with the PHEA. The school psychologists received layoff notices in May that they would no longer have work with the district beyond that school year. In August, the district’s board approved a resolution for the district to contract with the RESA to provide special education services, and the agreement was approved in September. The PHEA filed an unfair labor practice charge as a result of this shift in special education work.

Court: It’s Up to the Board

The Court concluded that the Revised School Code (MCL 380.1751(1)) gives a local board of education the discretion about how a local school will provide special education services to its students. The PHEA had argued that the Public Employment Relations Act required the district to bargain over the subcontracting of instructional bargaining unit work. However, the Court pointed to the Michigan Supreme Court ruling in Bay City Ed Ass’n v. Bay City Public Schools, 430 Mich 370; 442 NW2d 504 (1988), where the Court concluded that Bay City Public Schools had the authority to shift its special education programs to the intermediate school district, and that decision was not a “term or condition of employment” and subject to a duty to bargain.2

The Court likened Port Huron’s situation to the Bay City case, explaining that, in both situations, the local and intermediate school districts had joint authority and responsibility to provide special education services for their students. The decision about how to provide those services between the entities was a management decision and not a matter that must be bargained.

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1 Port Huron Ed Ass’n v. Port Huron Area School District, unpublished opinion per curium of the Court of Appeals, issued February, 16, 2016 (Docket No. 325022).

2 Bay City, 430 Mich at 384.