Cherry v. Pennsylvania Higher Educ. Assistance Agency

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
Writing for the CourtBefore NIX; FLAHERTY; Frank J. MONTEMURO
Citation642 A.2d 463,537 Pa. 186
Decision Date25 May 1994
Parties, 91 Ed. Law Rep. 622 Nancy D. CHERRY, Lou Ann (Brutz) Gray, Amanda L. Kyle, Holly A. Merryman, Tiffany H. Montgomery, Amy J. Power, Kathryn U. Sanida, and Lori Ann Skripek, Appellants, v. PENNSYLVANIA HIGHER EDUCATION ASSISTANCE AGENCY, Appellee.

Page 463

642 A.2d 463
537 Pa. 186, 91 Ed. Law Rep. 622
Nancy D. CHERRY, Lou Ann (Brutz) Gray, Amanda L. Kyle, Holly
A. Merryman, Tiffany H. Montgomery, Amy J. Power,
Kathryn U. Sanida, and Lori Ann Skripek,
Appellants,
v.
PENNSYLVANIA HIGHER EDUCATION ASSISTANCE AGENCY, Appellee.
Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
Submitted March 2, 1994.
Decided May 25, 1994.

Page 464

[537 Pa. 187] Mark P. Widoff, Harrisburg, for appellants.

Robert B. Hoffman, Harrisburg, for appellee.

Before NIX, C.J., and FLAHERTY, ZAPPALA, PAPADAKOS, CAPPY, CASTILLE, and MONTEMURO, JJ.

OPINION OF THE COURT

FLAHERTY, Justice.

This case presents a narrow issue of statutory construction pertaining to the Urban and Rural Teacher Loan Forgiveness Act. The question is whether the word "teacher" means teacher or whether it includes nurses, guidance counselors, [537 Pa. 188] and psychologists in addition to teachers, as it does in the School Code.

The Urban and Rural Teacher Loan Forgiveness Act, Act of 1988, Dec. 6, P.L. 1259, No. 155, 24 P.S. § 5191 et seq., authorizes the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) to forgive portions of student debt incurred by borrowers engaged in "full-time teaching" in specified school districts in the Commonwealth. The eight appellants--employed as school nurses, guidance counsellors, and school psychologists--were denied loan forgiveness benefits by PHEAA on the basis that they were not engaged in full-time teaching under the loan forgiveness act. PHEAA's actions were upheld by the Commonwealth Court, which correctly applied a "clearly erroneous" standard of review to an agency's interpretation of a statute, as we must do as well. An interpretation by the agency charged with a statute's implementation is accorded great weight and will be overturned only if such a construction is clearly erroneous. See Wiley House v. Scanlon, 502 Pa. 228, 238, 465 A.2d 995, 1000 (1983); Masland v. Bachman, 473 Pa. 280, 290-91 n. 25, 374 A.2d 517, 522 n. 25 (1977).

The language at issue appears in the loan forgiveness act in 24 P.S. § 5194. The statute states:

§ 5194. Urban and Rural Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program

... For each academic year that the applicant is a full-time teacher in an approved Commonwealth urban or rural public school district, the agency may forgive a proportional part of the applicant's loan so that the loan may be entirely forgiven over four years of full-time teaching....

(Emphasis added.) PHEAA interpreted the criterion to require applicants to engage in classroom teaching for more than 50% of their time. Appellants do not contend that they satisfy this requirement, but dispute the interpretation of the word "teacher." Appellants argue that "teacher" in the statute has a broader meaning than classroom teacher, and should [537 Pa. 189] be defined as it is in the School Code, Act of March 10, 1949, P.L. 30, No. 14, § 1141, 24 P.S. § 11-1141:

For the purposes of this subdivision,

(1) "Teacher" shall include all professional employes and temporary professional employes, who devote fifty per centum (50%) of their time, or more, to teaching or

Page 465

other direct educational activities, such as class room teachers, demonstration teachers, museum teachers, counsellors, librarians, school nurses, dental hygienists, home and school visitors, and other similar professional employes and temporary professional employes, certificated in accordance with the qualifications established by the State Board of Education.

(Emphasis added.) If the school code definition of "teacher" were applied to the loan forgiveness act, appellants would qualify for forgiveness of their educational loans.

PHEAA interpreted "teachers" to mean classroom teachers, excluding nurses, guidance counsellors, and psychologists. The Commonwealth Court, 153 Pa.Cmwlth. 210, 620 A.2d 687, affirmed because PHEAA's interpretation coincided...

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18 practice notes
  • Commonwealth v. Reid, No. 564 CAP
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • 20 Agosto 2014
    ...was represented by his trial counsel, Samuel 627 Pa. 91Stretton, Esquire. This Court affirmed Appellant's judgments of sentence. Reid, 642 A.2d at 463.Appellant filed a timely pro se PCRA petition on December 12, 1996. Collateral review was assigned to the Honorable James Lineberger. Presen......
  • Popowsky v. Pennsylvania Public Utility, No. 107
    • United States
    • Pennsylvania Supreme Court
    • 24 Diciembre 1997
    ...implied where excluded." Cherry v. Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, 153 Pa.Cmwlth. 210, 620 A.2d 687, 690-91 (1993), aff'd 537 Pa. 186, 642 A.2d 463 (1994). The PUC's interpretation of the statute also advances one of the most important ends of the statute, that is, accelera......
  • Commonwealth v. Reid, J-80-2012
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • 20 Agosto 2014
    ...Appellant was represented by his trial counsel, Samuel Stretton, Esquire. This Court affirmed Appellant's judgments of sentence. Reid, 642 A.2d at 463. Appellant filed a timely pro se PCRA petition on December 12, 1996. Collateral review was assigned to the Honorable James Lineberger. Prese......
  • West Penn Allegheny Health Sys. v. Med. Care Availability and Reduction of Error Fund
    • United States
    • Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania
    • 21 Diciembre 2010
    ...not be implied where excluded." Cherry v. Pa. Higher Educ. Assistance Agency, 153 Pa.Cmwlth. 210, 620 A.2d 687, 690-91 (1993), aff'd, 537 Pa. 186, 642 A.2d 463 (1994). When Section 701(d) of the Malpractice Act and Sections 712(a) and (c) and 715(b) of the MCARE Act are construed in conjunc......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
18 cases
  • Commonwealth v. Reid, No. 564 CAP
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • 20 Agosto 2014
    ...was represented by his trial counsel, Samuel 627 Pa. 91Stretton, Esquire. This Court affirmed Appellant's judgments of sentence. Reid, 642 A.2d at 463.Appellant filed a timely pro se PCRA petition on December 12, 1996. Collateral review was assigned to the Honorable James Lineberger. Presen......
  • Popowsky v. Pennsylvania Public Utility, No. 107
    • United States
    • Pennsylvania Supreme Court
    • 24 Diciembre 1997
    ...implied where excluded." Cherry v. Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, 153 Pa.Cmwlth. 210, 620 A.2d 687, 690-91 (1993), aff'd 537 Pa. 186, 642 A.2d 463 (1994). The PUC's interpretation of the statute also advances one of the most important ends of the statute, that is, accelera......
  • Commonwealth v. Reid, J-80-2012
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • 20 Agosto 2014
    ...Appellant was represented by his trial counsel, Samuel Stretton, Esquire. This Court affirmed Appellant's judgments of sentence. Reid, 642 A.2d at 463. Appellant filed a timely pro se PCRA petition on December 12, 1996. Collateral review was assigned to the Honorable James Lineberger. Prese......
  • West Penn Allegheny Health Sys. v. Med. Care Availability and Reduction of Error Fund
    • United States
    • Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania
    • 21 Diciembre 2010
    ...not be implied where excluded." Cherry v. Pa. Higher Educ. Assistance Agency, 153 Pa.Cmwlth. 210, 620 A.2d 687, 690-91 (1993), aff'd, 537 Pa. 186, 642 A.2d 463 (1994). When Section 701(d) of the Malpractice Act and Sections 712(a) and (c) and 715(b) of the MCARE Act are construed in conjunc......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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