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Labor Board Rules Charter Schools are Private Corporations

New York still owes public schools $3.9 billion under the Campaign for Fiscal Equity Lawsuit. (Amanda Mills, USCDCP/PublicDomainImages)
New York still owes public schools $3.9 billion under the Campaign for Fiscal Equity Lawsuit. (Amanda Mills, USCDCP/PublicDomainImages)
September 2, 2016

NEW YORK - The National Labor Relations Board said charter schools are private corporations, not public schools, and are subject to federal labor law. The NLRB handed down decisions in two similar cases last week, involving union organizing at charter schools in New York and Pennsylvania.

According to Carl Korn, chief press officer for New York State United Teachers, the Hyde Leadership Charter School in Brooklyn objected when teachers began organizing as a public-sector union under state public-employee labor laws.

"Charter schools claim they're public when they want taxpayer dollars," he said. "But when it comes to union representation elections, they're arguing that they're private institutions."

Under state law, charter schools are "within the public school system," but the NLRB decision notes that the school had not been established directly by government and its administrators are not accountable to elected officials or to voters.

The rulings only apply to the two specific schools and Korn said the union-organizing effort at the school in Brooklyn will proceed. But he notes that privately-owned charter schools are exempt from many of the regulations and requirements that apply to public schools.

"Schools that take all students, and don't exclude students with special needs, English-language learners and those who are most difficult to educate, which is what charter management tends to do in many places," he added.

Following a 2006 court ruling, New York State committed to increasing public-school funding by $5.5 billion over four years. But after cuts during the recession, the state is still almost $4 billion behind. Korn believes the NLRB ruling adds fuel to debates over funding priorities.

Korn asked, "If they're not public schools and they're private corporations, why is the state sending millions of dollars to these private, charter operators instead of investing properly in traditional public schools?"

New York State United Teachers represents employees at about 30 charter schools across the state.

The full ruling can be read here.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY