Connecticut Educ. Ass'n, Inc. v. Tirozzi, 13380

CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Citation210 Conn. 286,554 A.2d 1065
Decision Date07 March 1989
Docket NumberNo. 13380,13380
Parties, 52 Ed. Law Rep. 604 CONNECTICUT EDUCATION ASSOCIATION, INC., et al. v. Gerald TIROZZI et al.

Page 1065

554 A.2d 1065
210 Conn. 286, 52 Ed. Law Rep. 604
Gerald TIROZZI et al.
No. 13380.
Supreme Court of Connecticut.
Argued Jan. 3, 1989.
Decided March 7, 1989.

[210 Conn. 287]

Page 1066

Ronald Cordilico, East Hartford, and Robert F. McWeeny, Hartford, for appellants (plaintiffs).

John R. Whelan, Asst. Atty. Gen., with whom were Robert C. Walsh, Certified Legal Intern, and, on the brief, Joseph I. Lieberman, Former Atty. Gen., for appellees (defendants).

Patrice A. McCarthy, Hartford, filed a brief for the Connecticut Association of Boards of Educ. as amicus curiae.


[210 Conn. 287] PETERS, Chief Justice.

The dispositive issue in this case, which comes to us by way of reservation, is whether General Statutes (Rev. to 1989) § 10-145b(i) 1 violates the plaintiffs'[210 Conn. 288] due

Page 1067

process and contractual rights guaranteed by the federal and state constitutions. The plaintiffs, the Connecticut Education Association, Inc., the Connecticut State Federation of Teachers, Phyllis Greene and Harriet Strain, brought suit in the Superior Court seeking a declaratory judgment that General Statutes (Rev. to 1989) § 10-145b(i) is unconstitutional. The trial court granted the parties' motion for reservation to the Appellate Court upon stipulated facts to determine the provision's constitutionality. We transferred the case here pursuant to Practice Book § 4023 and now answer the reserved question 2 in the negative.

Pursuant to Practice Book § 4148, the parties stipulated to the following facts. The plaintiffs, Connecticut Education Association, Inc., and Connecticut State Federation of Teachers, Inc., are nonprofit corporations and labor organizations representing public school teachers and local teacher bargaining representatives pursuant to General Statutes § 10-153a. The plaintiff [210 Conn. 289] Phyllis Greene resides in Portland, teaches in the Portland public school system and holds a standard teaching certificate issued by the state department of education. The plaintiff Harriet Strain resides in Killingworth, teaches in Old Saybrook and holds a permanent teaching certificate also issued by the state department of education. The defendant Gerald Tirozzi, the state commissioner of education, and the defendant state board of education (board) are jointly charged with the general supervision and control of the state's educational interests. See General Statutes §§ 10-1, 10-3a and 10-4.

Several statutes provide a frame of reference for the issues in this case. General Statutes (Rev. to 1989) § 10-145, 3 enjoins local boards of education from employing or paying any teacher who does not hold an appropriate state-issued teaching certificate. See Ames v. Board of Education, 167 Conn. 444, 446, 356 A.2d 100 (1975). Related statutes confer upon the defendant board the responsibility for issuing teaching certificates and adopting certificate regulations. General Statutes (Rev. to 1989) §§ 10-144o, 10-145a(a), 10-145d(a) and 10-146b.

Before May, 1986, a two-tiered certification process governed Connecticut school teachers. Newly certified teachers received "provisional teaching certificates," valid for no fewer than three years. Thereafter, teachers became eligible to receive a "standard teaching certificate," valid for life and revocable only "for cause," as provided by statute. General Statutes (Rev. to 1985) [210 Conn. 290] § 10-144o; General Statutes (Rev. to 1989) § 10-145b(m); 4 Ames v.

Page 1068

Board of Education, supra, at 446, 356 A.2d 100.

On July 2, 1986, the General Assembly passed the legislation presently at issue, Public Acts, Spec.Sess., May, 1986, No. 1, entitled "An Act Concerning Education Enhancement" (act). The act, as amended by Public Acts 1988, No. 88-273, replaced the two-tiered certificate system with a three-tiered system, beginning with an "initial educator certificate," graduating to a "provisional educator certificate" and finally to a "professional educator certificate." General Statutes (Rev. to 1989) § 10-144o (2), (5) and (7). 5 To remain certified[210 Conn. 291] to teach, those teachers holding standard or permanent teaching certificates must, by July 1, 1989, exchange them for professional educator certificates. The standard or permanent teaching certificates will be invalid after July 1, 1989. General Statutes (Rev. to 1989) § 10-145b(i). Thus, by July 1, 1989, over 30,000 active teachers must surrender their teaching certificates.

The new professional educator certificates will be issued for five year renewable terms. The act, however, conditions the renewal of the certificates solely upon each teacher's "successful completion of professional development activities which shall consist of not less than nine continuing education units [CEUs] or their equivalent ... during each successive five-year period." General Statutes (Rev. to 1989) § 10-145b(l )(1). 6 The act requires state and local or regional [210 Conn. 292] boards of education to underwrite the entire cost of CEU offerings. 7 As the plaintiffs conceded at oral

Page 1069

argument before this court, the only burden that the act imposes upon teachers already holding standard or permanent teaching certificates is the successful completion of the CEUs.

The provisions for the exchange of certificates and for the continuing education were enacted as part of a comprehensive legislative package intended to upgrade public education in this state. A major purpose of the act was to attract a greater number of qualified people to enter and to remain in the teaching profession. Recognizing the importance of higher salaries to the achievement of this goal, the legislature offered state money to each local and regional school district so that new teachers could be hired at a "state designated target minimum salary." General Statutes (Rev. to 1989) §§ 10-257a(e), 10-257b. Further funding was provided to school districts so that they could increase the salaries of experienced teachers, address the problem of crowded classrooms, provide mentor and assessment programs and otherwise enhance their general educational offerings. General Statutes (Rev. to 1989) §§ 10-257c, 10-257d and 10-257f. In return for these financial enhancements of the teaching profession[210 Conn. 293] as a whole, individual teachers are being required to improve their own teaching skills by completing nine CEUs within five teaching years after they receive their new professional educator certificates in July, 1989. The plaintiffs claim that the mandatory substitution of these certificates for the teaching certificates they presently hold will violate their constitutional rights to due process and to protection of contracts.


The plaintiffs make two separate due process arguments: procedural and substantive. We conclude that the act does not violate the plaintiffs' due process rights in either respect.


Analysis of the plaintiffs' procedural due process claim requires a three part inquiry: (1) did the plaintiffs have a property interest in their standard and permanent teaching certificates; (2) does General Statutes (Rev. to 1989) § 10-145b(i) deprive them of that property interest; and (3) did the deprivation of the interest occur without due process of law? 8 Although we agree with the plaintiffs that they have a property interest that is constitutionally cognizable, we conclude that this interest has not been unconstitutionally impaired.

[210 Conn. 294] "Property" is a "broad and majestic" term and a great constitutional concept " 'purposely left to gather meaning from experience.' " Board of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 571, 92 S.Ct. 2701, 2706, 33 L.Ed.2d 548 (1972), quoting National Mutual Ins. Co. v. Tidewater Transfer Co., 337 U.S. 582, 646, 69 S.Ct. 1173, 1195, 93 L.Ed. 1556 (1949) (Frankfurter, J., dissenting). Property interests are more than abstract needs, desires or unilateral expectations of benefits or privileges. Rather, a person must have "a legitimate claim of entitlement" to a benefit or privilege to have a property interest in that benefit. Board of Regents v. Roth, supra, 408 U.S. at 577, 92 S.Ct. at 2709. "Property interests are not created by the Constitution, 'they are created and their dimensions are defined by existing rules or understandings that stem from an independent source such as state law....' " Cleveland Board of Education v. Loudermill, 470 U.S. 532, 538, 105 S.Ct. 1487, 1491, 84 L.Ed.2d 494 (1985), quoting Board of Regents v. Roth, supra, 408 U.S. at 577, 92 S.Ct. at 2709; see also Paul v. Davis, 424 U.S. 693, 709, 96

Page 1070

S.Ct. 1155, 1164, 47 L.Ed.2d 405, reh. denied, 425 U.S. 985, 96 S.Ct. 2194, 48 L.Ed.2d 811 (1976). "The hallmark of property ... is an individual entitlement grounded in state law, which cannot be removed except 'for cause.' " Logan v. Zimmerman Brush Co., 455 U.S. 422, 430, 102 S.Ct. 1148, 1155, 71 L.Ed.2d 265 (1982). A person has an entitlement in a benefit or privilege if there are "rules or mutually explicit understandings that support his claim of entitlement to the benefit ... that he may invoke at a hearing." Perry v. Sinderman, 408 U.S. 593, 601, 92 S.Ct. 2694, 2699, 33 L.Ed.2d 570 (1972); see also Bishop v. Wood, 426 U.S. 341, 344, 96 S.Ct. 2074, 2077, 48 L.Ed.2d 684 (1976); Bartlett v. Krause, 209 Conn. 352, 362-63, 551 A.2d 710 (1988); 2 R. Rotunda, J. Nowak & J. Young, Constitutional Law: Substance and Procedure (1986) § 17.5, pp. 234-36.

[210 Conn. 295] Under the governing statutes and case law, the rights of Connecticut school teachers in their teaching certificates qualify as a property interest because these certificates are needed in order to obtain and maintain a teaching position. General Statutes (Rev. to 1989) § 10-145. Connecticut law provided, prior to the act at issue, that the defendant...

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