New York State School Boards Association

Understanding a BOE's 'legislative approval' powers

On Board Online • August 10, 2015

Editor's Note: The following is excerpted from School Law, 35th Edition. The acronym PERB refers to the state Public Employment Relations Board, which makes quasi-judicial decisions involving the Taylor Law (sections 200-214 of the state Civil Service Law). The Taylor Law regulates the employment practices of public employers, including school districts.

What is the difference between a school board's contract ratification and legislative approval powers?

Legislative approval and contract ratification are two related concepts that are often confused (City of Saratoga Springs, 20 PERB 3031 (1987)).

Contract ratification is a voluntary process under which a tentative agreement is submitted to a school board and/or union membership for a vote to accept or reject the tentative agreement. School boards do not have an inherent or automatic right of ratification (see Town of Dresden, 17 PERB 3096 (1984)). The right of ratification is created by agreement or through understanding between the parties' negotiators. It is not a right that a school board or any other party may unilaterally reserve to itself (see, for example, Town of Dresden; Falconer CSD, 6 PERB 3029 (1973); Jamestown City Sch. Dist., 6 PERB 3075 (1973)). It may be waived by a board's failure to conduct a ratification vote (Utica City Sch. Dist. , 27 PERB 3023 (1994); Jamesville-DeWitt CSD, 22 PERB 3048 (1989); see 47:34).

Legislative approval is a right and duty of the board created by statute (201(12), 204-a(1)). Unlike the negotiated right of ratification, which allows the board to approve or reject the entire tentative agreement, the statutory right of legislative approval only allows the board to act on those contract provisions that require an amendment of board policy having the force of law or additional funding (204-a(1)). As a general rule, those provisions of an executed agreement do not become binding on the school district until the board has given its approval (201(12)). However, a school board's prior actions may result in a waiver of the right of legislative approval (see 47:36).

Legislative approval of a multi-year agreement may not be conditioned upon or subject to annual appropriations. Once legislative approval has been given, the school district is bound by the agreement for its full, specified term (Ass'n of Surrogates & Supreme Court Reporters v. State of New York, 78 N.Y.2d 143 (1991)).

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