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Education Minnesota-Chisholm v. Independent School District No. 695

June 05, 2003

EDUCATION MINNESOTA-CHISHOLM, CHISHOLM, MINNESOTA, PETITIONER, APPELLANT,
v.
INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 695, CHISHOLM, MINNESOTA, RESPONDENT, STATE OF MINNESOTA, BUREAU OF MEDIATION SERVICES, RESPONDENT.



SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. For the purposes of determining the exclusion of part-time teachers from the teachers' bargaining unit, under Minn. Stat. § 179A.03, subd. 14 (2002), a "noncredit" community education program is one that is not premised on the satisfaction of academic requirements resulting in uniform advancement and graduation.

2. Part-time early childhood family education instructors are excluded from the teachers' bargaining unit because they provide "community education instruction [that is] offered on a noncredit basis."

Affirmed.

Heard, considered, and decided by the court en banc.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hanson, Justice.

Concurring, Anderson, Paul H., J.

OPINION

Appellant teachers' union, Education Minnesota-Chisholm ("EMC"), petitioned the state Bureau of Mediation Services ("BMS") for a clarification of an appropriate bargaining unit of employees of respondent Independent School District No. 695 ("the District") in Chisholm, Minnesota. EMC claimed that the six Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) instructors employed by the District should be included in EMC's bargaining unit. The BMS ruled that ECFE instructors should not be included in the bargaining unit because they did not meet the definition of "public employees," which excludes part-time school staff who provide "community education instruction [that is] offered on a noncredit basis." Minn. Stat. § 179A.03, subd. 14(i) (2002).*fn1

EMC appealed, arguing that the term "noncredit basis" did not apply to ECFE instructors because "noncredit" (1) has no meaning in elementary education and (2) was intended by the legislature only to exclude higher education faculty. Education Minnesota-Chisholm v. Independent Sch. Dist. No. 695, 649 N.W.2d 474, 477 (Minn. App. 2002) (EMC). The court of appeals affirmed the BMS ruling in a 2-1 opinion. Id. at 480. We granted EMC's petition for review and now affirm.

The parties have stipulated to the facts. EMC is the exclusive bargaining representative for teachers in the District. The District has a long-standing ECFE program which provides instruction to parents and their preschool children. This instruction is not part of the K-12 curriculum and is not part of compulsory education mandated by state law. See Minn. Stat. § 120A.22 (2002).

At the time of the initial petition, the District employed six instructors to work part-time in the ECFE program. Each of these instructors is required to be licensed under normal state teacher-licensing procedures. Minn. Stat. § 124D.13, subd. 11 (2002). Historically, the EMC bargaining unit has not included part-time ECFE instructors or coordinators.

Both the BMS and the court of appeals majority concluded that the ECFE instructors are properly excluded from the bargaining unit because they provide "community education instruction [that is] offered on a noncredit basis," as described in Minn. Stat. § 179A.03, subd. 14, and thus are excluded from the definition of "public employee" under Minn. Stat. § 179A.03, subd. 14(e).

EMC argues that the ECFE instructors should be included in the bargaining unit because (1)áthey qualify as "public employee[s]" under the statute; (2)áthe statutory term "noncredit" is ambiguous and inapplicable to school district teachers; and (3) the legislative intent supports the inclusion of ECFE instructors with all teachers in the bargaining unit.

Sections 179A.01 to 179A.25 of the Minnesota Statutes are collectively known as the Public Employment Labor Relations Act (PELRA). Minn. Stat. § 179A.02 (2002). The Act governs the relationships between public employers and their employees. Minn. Stat. § 179A.01 (2002). The crucial section in this dispute, Minn. Stat. § 179A.03 (2002), defines the terms used in PELRA. That section states that the "'[a]ppropriate unit' or 'unit' means a unit of employees determined under sections 179A.09 to 179A.11. For ...


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