In what now has become a media tradition, press outlets lit up with the news that the Pennsylvania State Education Association successfully unionized the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School by a vote of 71 to 34.
The story notes, “PSEA has represented charter school teachers in the past, said spokesman Wythe Keever, but the approximately 115 teachers from the statewide online public school will be the only such members now.”
That’s a welcome detail usually omitted from charter school unionization stories, but it lacks some background, which I will happily provide.
PSEA has been trying to organize charters for more than 13 years and this, as far as I can tell, is the sum total of its efforts:
* PSEA won representation of employees at The Village Charter School, but the school was absorbed into the Chester-Upland School District in June 2008, its employees becoming members of the traditional local in that district.
* In June 2009, PSEA unionized the employees of the PA Learners Online cyber charter school, an achievement that was touted by NEA. The school later became the Stream Academy, and appears to have lost its union along the way. How that happened is a mystery to me, but PSEA no longer represents Stream Academy employees.
* In May 2012, PSEA failed to unionize the employees of Agora Cyber Charter School after a very long and expensive campaign.
* In June 2013, PSEA unionized employees of the Pocono Mountain Charter School. In July 2013, the school’s charter was revoked by the state appeals board, a decision that was recently reversed by a Commonwealth Court. The fate of the union is not clear, but PSEA does not count it as one of its locals.
In the meantime, the charter movement in Pennsylvania grew to a total of 183 schools last year.