Union Organization in Charter Schools

Over the course of her career, attorney Synthia Shilling has provided counsel to two Maryland school districts. Synthia Shilling draws on an in-depth knowledge of labor and employment law as it applies to both the public and private sectors.

The classification of a charter school as public or private sector has a number of implications in terms of union organization. Public school employees fall under the jurisdiction of state labor boards while private-sector workers turn to the National Labor Relations Act for unionization legislation. Many charter school teachers and support personnel are employees of a management company, which automatically makes them private-sector workers. However, employees hired by the school may be classified as public or private sector, depending a number of factors.

One can find an example of this classification in the National Labor Relations Board’s 2012 decision on Chicago Math and Science Academy. The Board deemed the academy to be a private entity, as its formation made it a private nonprofit corporation. The academy is thus susceptible to unionization laws that govern the private sector. Therefore, the school is prohibited from organizing under the State Labor Relations Act and must do so in accordance with private-sector regulations. The board did qualify that this ruling does not apply to all charter schools nationwide and invites other schools to apply individually for classification.

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