View From Lodi, CA: As I Predicted: Lodi Unified School District Takes the Bait; Hires Filipino Teachers
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Last week, the Lodi Unified School District announced that a recent recruiting trip to the Philippines made by Tokay High School principal Erik Sandstrom will result in hiring three new math and science teachers who will be assigned to grades 7-12.[Overseas Quest for Teachers Reduces Shortage, Sara Cardine, Lodi News-Sentinel, March 1, 2006]

As I discussed in my previous columns on this subject, hiring teachers from abroad is a growing trend nationwide in public education.

School districts in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, New York and Baltimore, to name a few, have traveled to the Philippines, their trips paid for by placement firms, to recruit teachers.

Let me suggest to you that hiring foreign-born teachers in U.S. schools is an indication that public education has entered the Twilight Zone from which no exit is apparent.

Consider that the nation's rapidly rising school enrollment is mainly a factor of legal and illegal immigration and births to those immigrants.

As a result of the soaring pupil increase from those two sources, more schools must be built. The new schools, in turn, create a need for more new teachers.

But teaching, in this period of high immigration, has become a more challenging and less attractive occupation.

Many would-be teachers are not drawn to the role of social worker. Others don't want to struggle with rooms of non-English speakers and their non-English speaking parents. Consequently, they opt for other, higher paying, less demanding professions.

Additionally, the federal government, through "No Child Left Behind" has imposed strict and unrealistic requirements on teachers and administrators. Many who bravely choose to pursue a career in education drop out after only a few years. Teacher retention is a significant problem.

In the meantime, the foreign-born teachers will, within a few years, bring their families (including some school age children) to the U.S. to join them. Other single teachers will marry here and start new families.

The net result: more immigration, more children and more schools that will have to be built that will need to be staffed by more teachers.

And so public education is on a merry-go-round that never stops.

In defense of hiring teachers abroad, school administrators across the country have made statements that are only partially accurate.

The two most commonly heard are:

While some doubtlessly have mastered their subject matter, what this comment suggests is that these teachers, most of whom have never set foot on U.S. soil, can arrive at their job site and be immediately effective while they are acclimating to a new personal and professional environment.

And it assumes that the Filipino and U.S. education systems are equivalent.

But they are not.  College in the Philippines begins in the 11th grade; a college diploma is our Associate of Arts degree and a Master's Degree, the same as our B.A.

  • "This does not keep an American out of a job."

But of course it does. If school districts did not have the option provided by the federal government in the form of the H-1B visa to hire abroad, an American would be teaching.

Somehow or another, the California Department of Education or the local school districts would figure out a way to staff the jobs. One possible solution: hire beginning math and science teachers higher up on the salary scale.

Maybe the much maligned but American long-term substitute is a better choice than the completely inexperienced (in a U.S. classroom) foreigner.

That will be especially true in Lodi's case since the Filipino teachers will not arrive until October when one-quarter of the school year is over.

Let's hope the new teachers are not completely overwhelmed by the magnitude of their task.

Here's my closing argument, not previously tendered, against hiring abroad.

Is it ethical for the U.S. to hire the best and brightest from the Philippines while that country flounders from one crisis to another?

And, accordingly, is it morally defensible for the Filipinos to abandon their nation in its time of need?

Judge for yourself by studying the following example.

As most readers know, thousands of Filipino nurses have come to America recruited by hospitals claiming "a nursing shortage."

But look now what has happened.

In a Reuter's news item last week titled Philippines Health Care Paralyzed by Nurses Exodus, reporter George Nishiyama found that of 1,600 private hospitals, only 700 are operational because of an insufficient number of nurses and doctors. [See James Fulford's blog here.]

During the same week, the Philippines declared a state of emergency. Philippine president Gloria Arroyo, in anticipation of a coup, shut schools and beefed up military security.

My message to American school districts and hospitals is to leave the intelligent, motivated Filipinos where they are. Let them apply their determination in the Philippines to make that country a better place to live.

And to the Filipinos so eager to get out, I encourage you to instead stay behind and fight. Don't contribute to the brain drain.

How will anything ever get better if you cut and run?

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.

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