View From Lodi, CA: Look Out Teachers; The H-1B Visa Gang Wants Your Job


A recent item in the

Las Vegas Review-Journal
should raise eyebrows
among my teaching colleagues and parents with school age
children.

In his warm and fuzzy story titled
Teachers Arrive From Philippines, Antonio Planas
reported that 51 Filipino teachers recruited in February
to work for the

Clark County School District
have completed their
7,000-mile journey. They are headed directly to the
classroom. [August
2, 2005
]


Clark County
is, according to the story, short about
400 teachers district wide.

But tough, unasked questions
remain.

Will the new instructors be able to
make the transition from teaching in

rural communities
half way around the world—one
described her village as “rice and coconut farmers”—to
teaching in the

neon lights
of urban Las Vegas?

That would be no small feat. Look,
for example, at the personal history of Elvira Ocamia as
retold by Planas.

Ocamia, who has never been outside
the

Philippines
, is 56-years-old, married for 36 years
and the mother of eight children. She will be living
either in an apartment or with other Las Vegas
Filipinos, but without her husband or children.

Can Ocamia get off a plane and
be emotionally prepared to deal with disruptive students
in a

demanding classroom
?

Another teacher, Elmer Potes,
admitted that he speaks broken English with a

heavy accent.
Will his high-school math students,
already

sufficiently challenged,
be able to understand him?

Ken Record, a long time Clark
County resident who follows education issues, said

"The
way

math is taught today,
verbal skills are very
important."

Most of the recently arrived
teachers admit that all they know about Las Vegas is
what they have seen on television and on the Internet.

The Filipino teachers are legally
in the U.S. on

non-immigrant H-1B visas
. And that fact begs a
bigger question: did Clark County exhaust every
opportunity to hire an American before traveling to the
other side of the globe?


Rob Sanchez
, who tracks

non-immigrant visa issues
and is the Webmaster for
the invaluable

www.zazona.com
, says school districts fail to look
at unemployed local professionals. Many laid off
software engineers, for example, have gone back to
school to get education degrees.

Wrote Sanchez in his

August 3rd newsletter
:

“School districts all over
the United States are actively recruiting foreign
teachers for our schools. In this case, Filipino math
and science teachers on H-1B visas have just arrived in
Nevada.

I have talked to many

engineers and programmers
that have been unable to
get teaching jobs in math and science, despite the fact
that they went

back to school
to get

education degrees.
Despite the growing number of

desperate
unemployed high-tech workers states like
Nevada still claim there is a shortage of these types of
teachers. This is just another cruel insult to the
growing number of highly educated professionals that
can`t find meaningful work.”

And when Sanchez says that recruitment of foreign teachers is going on
nationwide, he isn`t kidding.

  • In 2003,
    Arizona educators traveled to New Delhi for teachers
    even though the local Scottsdale Unified School District
    cut 175 jobs during the same period. [Teachers Recruited from India, Pat Kossan,
    Arizona Republic
    , March 22, 2003]

  • In June 2004,
    the New York Department of Education, crying
    “shortage,”
    added 200 additional teachers from

    Jamaica
    to its staff. The state offered two
    additional bonuses: free legal advice so that they could
    convert their visas into

    permanent residency
    status and

    free temporary housing.

  • In September 2001, Cleveland hired 50 math and
    special education teachers from

    India
    . This year 500 pink slips are being sent out
    in what the Cleveland Plain-Dealer describes as

“The first wave in what will be deep staff cuts in the
school district.”

[Nearly
500 Teachers Will Be Cut
,
Janet Okoben and Ebony
Reed, April 23, 2005]

At the beginning of my column I warned that teachers should be leery of
the trend to hire H-1Bs.

Conservative estimates put the number of teachers with non-immigrant
visas at about 15,000…and growing.

If you wonder why the attraction to H-1Bs is so strong, read the 2004
National Education Association report

Trends in Foreign Teacher Recruitment.

From the NEA report:
 

“…Some foreign teachers receive
lower pay
than comparable teachers in their schools.”

And:

 

“…Some school districts pay their nonimmigrant employees as new teachers, regardless of their experience and qualifications.”

 

And to the parents, I urge you not to settle for anything
less than the best
for your child. In today`s job
environment
, your kid needs the best possible academic
foundation.
 With nearly 14 million unemployed or under-employed Americans,
the chances are great that someone in your community with professional experience and
impressive academic credentials would
jump at the
chance to teach.
 
School administrators should forget about traveling around the world to sign up teachers simply because they will work for less.
 Instead, to ensure a quality education for our children, they must find
good teachers locally and
pay them well.

Joe Guzzardi [email
him], an instructor in English
at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly
column since 1988. It currently appears in the


Lodi News-Sentinel
.