NLRB to Scrutinize Whether Charter Schools Can Unionize

The National Labor Relations Board agreed to potentially modify or overrule a pair of Obama-era rulings that asserted jurisdiction over charter schools. The National Labor Relations Act gives the NLRB authority over private businesses. The Board must decide if charter schools are public or private entities.

In 2016, the Obama-NLRB handed down a pair of rulings saying the NLRA applied to charter schools. The Board, which was then controlled by Democrats, rejected arguments that the schools were political subdivisions of the state and thus outside of its jurisdiction. In Hyde Park Charter School – Brooklyn, and Pennsylvania Virtual Charter School, the Board relied on Section 14(c)(1) of the Act which provides that it may decline to assert jurisdiction over labor disputes involving any class or categories of employers where the effect of the dispute on commerce is not sufficiently substantial to warrant the exercise of its jurisdiction.

The current Republican-controlled NLRB refused jurisdiction over KIPP Academy Charter School. The Academy, though, argued that the Board should have authority over its case, since the Board has consistently said the NLRA applies to charter schools.

This case gives the Republican-controlled NLRB an opportunity to wade into the politically charged realm of charter schools. Many Republicans, including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, are supportive of charter schools as a tool for reform, while some Democrats worry the schools drain resources from traditional public schools.

Matt Austin owns Austin Legal, LLC, a boutique law firm based in Ohio that limits its representation to employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. You can reach Matt by calling him at (614) 843-3041 or emailing him at