Justices uphold Jay County teachers’ CBA

In a 4-1 decision, the Indiana Supreme Court affirmed the last best offer made by the Jay School Corp. regarding a collective bargaining agreement for the 2013-14 school year. The teachers took issue with a provision involving the salary of teachers hired mid-school year.

The Jay Classroom Teachers Association and the Jay School Corp. failed to reach a CBA, and mediation mandated under 2011 statute amendments also failed. As such, the two exchanged their last best offers, leading to the statutorily mandated factfinding process. The factfinder chose the school’s LBO, which contained the provision “Teachers hired after the commencement of the 2013–2014 school year may be placed on any line of the scale as determined by the Superintendent. After the initial placement of any teacher, the teacher shall remain on the same line on the scale, regardless of any other factors.”

The Indiana Education Employment Relations Board affirmed the adoption, leading to judicial review. The trial court affirmed, but the Court of Appeals reversed, finding the salary flexibility provision conflicted with the association’s right to collectively bargain to establish salaries.

The narrow issue before the justices is did the IEERB reasonably conclude that the salary flexibility provision was lawful? The association maintained that the provision unlawfully defeats its right to bargain salaries under I.C. 20-29-4-1 by giving the superintendent unilateral or unfettered discretion over late-hires’ salaries. But the majority found that the provision does not conflict with the teachers association’s right to collectively bargain to establish salaries for two reasons.

First, the late-hired teachers had to receive a base salary off a bargained-for scale. Both parties at oral argument acknowledged the 2013-13 salary scale was collectively bargained and both parties’ LBOs for the 2013-14 school year began with that same scale, Chief Justice Loretta Rush wrote.

Second, the superintendent’s authority is limited by the prohibition on deficit spending. Under statute, the superintendent couldn’t place a late-hired teacher on a line of scale if doing so would place the school in deficit financing.

Justice Robert Rucker dissented, agreeing with the Court of Appeals decision.

The case is Jay Classroom Teachers Association v. Jay School Corporation and Indiana Education Employment Relations Board, 49S05-1603-PL-113.

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