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Pair of NLRB Charter School Decisions Deliver Promise of Union Representation for Teachers

PA virtual charter school

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In a pair of decisions issued late last month, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) concluded that charter school teachers are private employees and therefore fall under the jurisdiction of the NLRB. The cases involved an online charter school in Pennsylvania called PA Virtual Charter School and a Brooklyn charter called Hyde Leadership Charter School. In both instances, teachers were seeking union representation:

The NLRB concluded that the charters were “private corporation[s] whose governing board members are privately appointed and removed,” and were neither “created directly by the state” nor “administered by individuals who are responsible to public officials or the general electorate.” The NLRB determined that a charter’s relationship to the state resembled that of a government contractor, as governments provide the funding but do not originate or control the schools.

The ruling seems to give credence to the claims of critics who believe charter schools are not public schools at all. Rather, they are simply stepping stones toward the privatization of education, as The American Prospect writes:

Unions and charter critics say charters are happy to be “public” when it affords them state and federal dollars, but claim they are private when seeking to hide from public oversight, or to opt out of rules applicable to those in the public sector. Advocates defend charters as public schools, saying they are open to all students, free to attend, and funded by taxpayers.

For her part, Donna Novicki, a seventh grade science teacher at PA Virtual Charter School, was very pleased with the NLRB’s decision. 

“We work longer hours, we work more days, we carry greater student case-loads, and after all that, we get paid less than our traditional counterparts,” she said. “We’re hoping for a union to better meet that compromise with the end goal of greater student success.”

Awareness is growing about the poor regulation and easy exploitation of state charter school systems.


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