The National Labor Relations Board ()NLRB) has decided in two separate cases that, with regard to federal labor law, charter schools are not public schools but private corporations.
The Washington Post reports that the decisions, involving unionization efforts at charter schools in New York and in Pennsylvania, pull the labor board into a long-running debate over the nature of charter schools: publicly funded, privately run institutions that enroll about 3 million students nationwide.
Charter school supporters say charters are public schools because they are tuition-free, open-enrollment institutions funded primarily with tax dollars. But union leaders and other critics describe charters as private entities that are run by unelected boards.
In its findings, the NLRB said that Hyde Leadership Charter School in Brooklyn and the Pennsylvania Virtual Charter School are, like other government contractors, private corporations that receive taxpayer dollars.
“Hyde was not established by a state or local government, and is not itself a public school,” reads the board’s majority opinion in the New York case.
The decisions mean that the schools’ employees must organize under the National Labor Relations Act, which applies to private-sector employees, rather than under state laws that apply to public-sector employees.