One of Pennsylvania's 11 cyber charter schools has become unionized, possibly the first of its type in the country to vote for representation.
During balloting Monday, teachers, counselors, and other professional staff at PA Learners Online Regional Charter School in Allegheny County voted, 42-14, in favor of being represented by an affiliate of the Pennsylvania State Education Association. The Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board oversaw the election.
The National Education Association told PSEA officials that PA Learners was the first publicly funded charter school to unionize.
Representatives from the rival American Federation of Teachers did not dispute that assertion.
PA Learners, headquartered in Homestead, was created by 10 Western Pennsylvania school districts. It enrolls 660 students, from kindergarten through 12th grade, who receive online instruction in their homes.
"We will negotiate with the union to develop a contract that is fair to all parties," Cheryl Fogarty, president of PA Learners' board, said yesterday.
Job security and pay equity were the key issues in the organizing campaign, said Kimberly Frum, an organizing specialist for the PSEA in Western Pennsylvania.
Charter school teachers were interested in joining a union, Frum said, because they are at-will employees and their pay scale lacks the salary steps of nearby school districts.
Their local will be called PA Learners Online Education Association.