Teachers, H-1B Visas and the Catch-22

Published on January 26th, 2012

According to the Department of Labor, in 2010 it certified 13,157 foreign-born teachers as instructors in U.S. elementary and high school classrooms. The teachers arrived from Mexico, the Philippines, India, Canada and other countries. My former employer, the Lodi Unified School District, began the practice of hiring from the Philippines five years ago. [Read my column about it here.]

Hiring abroad obviously denies American teachers, some recently laid off and others retired but willing to return to the classroom, a chance at employment.

Since there’s no “shortage,” using H-1Bs to hire teachers is one of the most blatant abuses of the non-immigrant visa program. And there are even abuses within the abuse. For example, in Maryland’s Prince George’s County Public School system, the district failed to pay the visa fees for their new employees as it is required to and also dramatically underpaid the teachers.

Because of what the Labor Department called “willful violations,” the school district agreed to pay $4.2 million in recompense to its overseas teachers. Read the press release explaining the penalties here.

What’s at play in the rush to recruit teachers and bring them to the U.S. on H-1B visas obviously isn’t an America shortage. Teachers all over the country are getting pink slips. Last year the New York City Department of Education announced layoffs totaling 4,675 teachers or 6 percent of the active teachers in its system. Virtually no academic subject or neighborhood school was spared. Of the approximate 1,600 city public schools, 80 percent would be impacted. Most would lose one to five teachers; nine would lose half of their current teaching staff. Many of those dismissed would be willing, perhaps even eager, to relocate out of state.  [City Details Worst-Case School Layoffs, by Fernanda Santos, New York Times, February 27, 2011]

H-1B teachers, some of whom admit to speaking limited English, represent an effort to keep up with the surging immigrant student population in the public school system. As the student body demographic profile shifts to include more foreign-born, politically correct school administrators increasingly turn to overseas teachers. The misguided logic is that diverse students better connect culturally to diverse teachers.

From a population perspective, this is a disaster. Unchecked immigration leads to acute school overcrowding. That, in turn, creates an artificial demand for foreign-born teachers who are likely to become permanent U.S. residents and eventually petition their families to join them.

Remember the formula: less immigration equals fewer social problems.

This is true not only in education but health care, housing, crime and just about any other thing you can name.

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