Agora teachers vote to unionize

Teachers at Agora Cyber Charter School - the second largest cyber in the state - have voted overwhelmingly to become unionized, a new local affiliate of the Pennsylvania State Education Association announced late Tuesday afternoon.

The National Labor Relations Board in Philadelphia, which tallied the mail ballots, said that teachers at the cyber based in King of Prussia had voted 312-46 in favor of being represented by the Agora Cyber Education Association.

Union organizers said that the vote came after a 10-month campaign that focused on changes to working conditions without notice and lack of teacher involvement in decisions about curriculum, classroom objectives or learning conditions for students.

"The teachers have demonstrated through this election that it's time for change at Agora," said Jill Phillips, chair of the middle school social studies department and member of the organizing committee.

"It's time to work alongside administration and achieve a contract that ensures everyone is on the same page and we are doing what is best for our students," she said.

A spokeswoman for Agora did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Union organizers said they will hold a transition meeting, elect officers and begin work on collective bargaining.

In early February, the Agora board had laid off scores of teachers, citing financial problems it blamed on the lack of a state budget.

The board initially refused to say how many staffers were let go, but in a Feb. 29 letter to parents and staff said that 136 jobs had been eliminated for a savings of $4.5 million.

Agora enrolls 8,500 students across the state who receive online instruction in their homes.

Teachers at Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School in Midland, Pa., are also unionized.

martha.woodall@phillynews.com 215-854-2789 @marwooda