It sounds like an academic question. "Class, today we're going to discuss whether or not charter schools are public schools." You say "public school," I say "publicly funded school." Potato, po-tah-to. But recent decisions by the National Labor Relations Board
move the question into the realm of federal law. In two cases, the NLRB decided charter schools aren't public schools. They're private corporations.
In its recent decisions, both issued Aug. 24, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Hyde Leadership Charter School in Brooklyn and the Pennsylvania Virtual Charter School are — like other government contractors — private corporations that receive taxpayer dollars.
The Democrats on the NLRB supported the ruling, and the only Republican dissented, but it's not clear who will benefit from the wider implications of the decisions. Charters like to call themselves public schools when they want taxpayer funding, so being considered private corporations could put their funding in jeopardy, but they also like being able to act like private entities when it comes to financial and organizational transparency, so the ruling could help them maintain their privacy fire walls.
These two cases are about unionization efforts at the schools. Ironically, the decision could make it more difficult for the teachers to organize.
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.
That takes teachers unions out of having a direct role in the organizing process, which could mean the teachers will be on their own.
Nonetheless, organizations supporting charter schools are upset by the ruling, while teachers unions and others who advocate for district-based public school are applauding.