Ruling On PA Charter School Could Set A Precedent

Sep 6, 2016

In the majority of states, charters are legally considered public schools, with exceptions.
Credit AP

The National Labor Relations Board recently ruled a virtual charter school in Pennsylvania should be classified as a private corporation, not a public institution. The decision only directly impacts that one school, but it could have farther-reaching legal implications.

That ruling, which affected Pennsylvania Virtual Charter School, was prompted by unionization efforts by its employees. Private organizations are subject to National Labor Relations rules, while public ones are subject to state labor regulations.

These decisions are highly individual. And the board’s distinctions between private and public organizations are so specific they're dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

But Todd Ziebarth, senior vice president at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, said the ruling isn’t entirely insular.

“I just think what it does is potentially sets a precedent for the next time around,” Ziebarth said. “So if somebody tries to organize another school in Pennsylvania, people will look at the decision here as they examine the facts and circumstances of that particular school.”

When it comes to charter schools, there are a lot of gray areas in where they stand between private and public.

But Ziebarth noted in this case, the private designation only goes as far as labor laws.