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MADISON - Responding to a request for clarification and guidance from the Wisconsin Technical College System Board ("WTCS Board"), Attorney General J. B. Van Hollen today issued an informal opinion addressing the authority of the WTSC Board to regulate articulation agreements entered into by technical college districts. Van Hollen held that WTCS Board does not have express or implied authority to require that articulation agreements bear the signatures of WEAC and AFT-WI representatives, as collective bargaining agents for district personnel.
Articulation agreements are agreements between the high school and the technical college through which the student will receive technical college credit. Certification eligibility factors must be included in an articulation agreement between a technical college district and a secondary school.
Since 1992, the WTCS Board has entered into a memorandum of understanding that extends WTCS certification to K-12 secondary school teachers who provide introductory level technical college occupation and occupationally-related course instruction. The memorandum was developed to accommodate differences in licensing or certification requirements between Department of Public Instruction (DPI) licensure and WTCS certification. The parties to the memorandum are the WTCS Board, DPI, the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC), and the American Federation of Teachers - Wisconsin (AFT-WI).
The memorandum requires that the articulation agreement developed between a technical college and a K-12 district must be authorized by the signatures of (1) the secondary school and technical college instructors who have agreed as to course content, (2) technical college and secondary school administrators, and (3) WEAC and AFT-WI representatives as collective bargaining agents for district personnel.
Under state labor law, technical college districts are municipal employers for purposes of the Municipal Employment Relations Act (MERA). As municipal employers, technical college districts have the duty to bargain collectively with the representative of a majority of its employees in an appropriate collective bargaining unit with respect to wages, hours, and conditions of employment.. The technical college districts do not have a duty to bargain, however, on subjects reserved to management and direction of the districts except insofar as the manner of exercise of such functions affects the wages, hours, and conditions of employment of the municipal employees in a collective bargaining unit.
Van Hollen concluded that while the WTCS Board is authorized to require technical college districts to enter into articulation agreements with K-12 school districts and to impose requirements regarding eligibility for teacher certification, adequacy of high school courses, level of preparation of secondary students, and cooperation between a participating technical college instructor and a K-12 secondary school instructor, the WTCS Board has neither express nor implied authority to require that articulation agreements bear the signatures of WEAC and AFT-WI representatives, as collective bargaining agents for district personnel.
Van Hollen also concluded that a technical college district has independent authority (and responsibility) to bargain collectively, and to determine the scope of its bargaining obligation under MERA, which cannot be usurped by the WTCS Board.