In the Matter of LAWRENCE TEACHERS' Association, NYSUT, AFT, NEA, AFL-CIO, Respondent,
NEW YORK STATE PUBLIC RELATIONS BOARD, Respondent, and LAWRENCE UNION FREE SCHOOL DISTRICT, Appellant.
Calendar Date: May 4, 2017
Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, LLP, Washington, DC (Bryan M.
Killian, admitted pro hac vice), for appellant.
Richard E. Casagrande, New York State United Teachers, Latham
(Laura H. Delaney of counsel), for Lawrence Teachers'
Association, NYSUT, AFT, NEA, AFL-CIO, respondent.
P. Quinn, New York State Public Relations Board, Albany, for
New York State Public Relations Board, respondent.
Jeffrey Mongelli, New York State School Boards Association,
Inc., Latham (Jay Worona of counsel), for New York State
School Boards Association, Inc., amicus curiae.
Before: Peters, P.J., McCarthy, Egan Jr., Devine and Mulvey,
from a judgment of the Supreme Court (McGrath, J.), entered
February 10, 2016 in Albany County, which partially granted
petitioner's application, in a proceeding pursuant to
CPLR article 78, to annul a determination of respondent
Public Employment Relations Board dismissing petitioner's
improper practice charge.
Lawrence Union Free School District (hereinafter the
District) implemented a universal prekindergarten program
pursuant to Education Law § 3602-e. Program tasks were
first performed by employees working in a collective
bargaining unit exclusively represented by petitioner but, in
2012, the District unilaterally contracted with an outside
eligible agency to staff and operate it. Petitioner filed an
improper practice charge with respondent Public Employment
Relations Board (hereinafter PERB) alleging a violation of
the Public Employees' Fair Employment Act (see
Civil Service Law art 14 [hereinafter the Taylor Law]),
namely, that the District did not negotiate in good faith
about outsourcing the work (see Civil Service Law
§§ 204 ; 209-a  [d]).
a hearing, an Administrative Law Judge concluded that the
provisions of Education Law § 3602-e vitiated the
District's duty to negotiate in good faith and dismissed
the charge. PERB affirmed, prompting petitioner to commence
this CPLR article 78 proceeding. Supreme Court annulled
PERB's determination and remitted for further
proceedings, holding that nothing in Education Law §
3602-e "defeat[ed] the District's bargaining
obligations... under the Taylor Law." The District's
outsourcing of work performed exclusively by represented
employees is a mandatory subject of bargaining under the
Taylor Law, rendering a failure to bargain an improper
employer practice under Civil Service Law § 209-a (1)
(d) (see Matter of Manhasset Union Free School Dist.
v New York State Publ. Empl. Relations Bd., 61 A.D.3d 1231,
1232-1233 ; Matter of Romaine v Cuevas, 305
A.D.2d 968, 969 ). PERB concluded that the outsourcing
here was not a mandatory subject of bargaining due to
Education Law § 3602-e (5) (d), which authorizes a
school district "to enter any contractual or other
arrangements necessary to implement" a prekindergarten
program plan "[n]otwithstanding any other provision of
law." As PERB itself recognizes, the interplay between
the Taylor Law and Education Law § 3602-e presents a
question of pure "statutory construction [that] is a
function for the courts[, and PERB] is accorded no special
deference in [its] interpretation of statutes"
(Matter of Webster Cent. Sch. Dist. v Public Empl.
Relations Bd. of State of N.Y., 75 N.Y.2d 619, 626
; see Matter of New York City Tr. Auth. v New York
State Pub. Empl. Relations Bd., 8 N.Y.3d 226, 231
). Our review of the statutory landscape nevertheless
leads us to agree with PERB's interpretation.
main goal in statutory construction is to discern the will of
the Legislature and, "[a]s the clearest indicator of
legislative intent is the statutory text, the starting point
in any case of interpretation must always be the language
itself, giving effect to the plain meaning thereof"
(Majewski v Broadalbin-Perth Cent. School Dist., 91
N.Y.2d 577, 583 ; see Matter of Level 3
Communications, LLC v Clinton County, 144 A.D.3d 115, 117-118
). Education Law § 3602-e addresses the
apportionment of state funds to school districts that create
a universal prekindergarten program plan, "defined as a
plan 'designed to effectively serve eligible children
directly through the school district or through collaborative
efforts between the school district and an eligible agency or
agencies'" (Matter of Board of Educ. of Catskill
Cent. Sch. Dist. [Catskill Teachers Assn.], 130 A.D.3d
1287, 1288-1289 , lv denied 26 N.Y.3d 912');">26 N.Y.3d 912
, quoting Education Law § 3602-e  [d]). A
school district is free to avoid collaborative efforts in
crafting a prekindergarten program plan (see
Education Law § 3602-e  [d]; Matter of Board of
Educ. of Catskill Cent. Sch. Dist. [Catskill Teachers
Assn.], 130 A.D.3d at 1289), although collaboration is
generally required in order for the plan to obtain approval
and grant money from the Commissioner of Education
(see Education Law § 3602-e ;  [e]; 
[b]; 8 NYCRR 151-1.4 [c]; 151-1.5 [b] ). Regardless of the
precise plan devised, however, a school district is empowered
to "enter any contractual or other arrangements
necessary to implement" it "[n]otwithstanding any
other provision of law" (Education Law § 3602-e 
power to contract conferred by Education Law § 3602-e
(5) (d) does not "overcome the strong [s]tate policy
favoring the bargaining of terms and conditions of
employment" by itself, as "any implied intention
that there not be mandatory negotiation must be plain and
clear or inescapably implicit in the statute"
(Matter of Webster Cent. Sch. Dist. v Public Empl.
Relations Bd. of State of N.Y., 75 N.Y.2d at 627
[internal quotation marks and citations omitted];
see Matter of City of Schenectady v New York State
Pub. Empl. Relations Bd., 85 N.Y.2d 480, 486 ).
Education Law § 3602-e (5) (d) goes further and grants
the power to make necessary arrangements
"[n]otwithstanding any other provision of law, "
which is a "verbal formulation frequently employed for
legislative directives intended to preempt any other
potentially conflicting statute, wherever found in the
[s]tate's laws" (People v Mitchell, 15
N.Y.3d 93, 97 ; see Matter of Retired Pub. Empls.
Assn., Inc. v Cuomo, 123 A.D.3d 92, 95 ;
Matter of Niagara County v Power Auth. of State of
N.Y., 82 A.D.3d 1597, 1601 , lv dismissed and
denied 17 N.Y.3d 838');">17 N.Y.3d 838 ). The addition of that
language accordingly signals the intent of the Legislature to
override any statutory conflicts to the exercise of the
school district's contracting power, including the Taylor
Law bar to outsourcing work absent bargaining beforehand.
is nothing unclear in the language of Education Law §
3602-e (5) (d), but the history of the statute points to the
same legislative aim. The statute originally mandated that a
board of education considering the creation of a universal
prekindergarten program empanel an advisory board to study
the issue, and that advisory board would include stakeholder
representatives such as "teachers employed by the school
district as selected by the collective bargaining unit"
(Education Law § 3602-e former  [a], as added by L
1997, ch 436, part A, § 58; see L 1998, ch 58,
part C, § 34). The advisory board would then conduct a
thorough, public review and consider factors such as
"the most appropriate and effective manner in which to
provide prekindergarten programs which most efficiently
utilize the resources of the school district and the
community, including eligible agencies "
(Education Law § 3602-e former  [b] [vi] ...