View From Lodi, CA: "Temporary Workers" – First, Computer Programmers; Next, American Teachers?
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Last week, I wrote about the possibility that by the next academic year, the Lodi Unified School District will have hired several new instructors from the Philippines to teach math and science at Tokay High School.

Despite their all out efforts, district administrators have been unable to find suitable candidates in the United States.

Principal Erik Sandstrom made a fact-finding trip, funded by the Filipino placement firm HealthQuest Enterprises, to analyze the feasibility of hiring foreign-born teachers.

If hired, the new teachers would receive three-year non-immigrant visas, most likely an H-1B, even though their teaching positions would be reviewed on a year-to-year basis.

A few months ago, I wrote several columns critical of a similar undertaking in Las Vegas. Readers may recall that while Las Vegas claimed that no qualified teachers applied, it was later learned that an exceptionally talented and experienced California educator, and one time Stockton Unified "Teacher of the Year," was rejected.

What I oppose most specifically is the non-immigrant visa that makes hiring abroad as easy as one, two, three.

We're going to take a whirlwind refresher course in Econ 101 to see why these visas are a threat to American workers in any profession.

The non-immigrant visa opens up the global labor market to U.S. employers. All any employer has to do to hire abroad is declare that no American is available or qualified for the particular job he is trying to fill. That's it…further documentation or proof of his claim, while legally required, is rarely asked for.

Who is to know, therefore, to what extent an employer has gone to fill a vacant job with an American worker.

Where things get even sweeter for the employer is that this huge overseas labor pool is tripping over itself to get to the United States. Wages are not a factor. Whatever the salary is, it looks good to at least 75 percent of the worldwide market.

And don't forget, coming to the U.S. legally on a work visa can be step number one on the road to American citizenship. This is possibly the biggest benefit of all…and certainly represents another inducement for the foreign worker.

For the employer then, the foreign labor market and the reality of the non-immigrant visa combine to give him an unlimited supply of labor from which to tap.

At the same time, it makes it impossible, from a wage perspective, for the American worker to compete.

Moving on to the specifics of using the non-immigrant visa in education, teachers should be aware that this is the hottest trend in hiring.

More than 10,000 foreign born teachers are working in, to name but a few cities, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Portland, San Francisco. They are mostly teaching math, science, ESL and special education.

And according to a study available on the Internet and titled A Report to the National Education Association on Trends in Foreign Teacher Recruitment, these new instructors are often sent to "less desirable poor and rural school districts." In other words, poor kids get the short end of the stick—again.

The most alarming aspect of the report, according to its author Randy Barber, is that over the next ten years the nation's public schools will need to hire 2 million new teachers.

Not only is 25 percent of the current teaching corps over 50 and approaching retirement but 20 percent of all new hires leave after three years. That statistic increases to 50 percent for teachers working in urban areas.

Under current conditions, a significant portion of the 2 million new teachers required could come from overseas.

A significant influx of foreign trained and educated teachers is not in the best interests of our children. Under no circumstances can teacher without U.S. classroom experience be immediately effective.

Let's get back to our earlier Econ 101 lesson. To say that America has a shortage of teachers is an incomplete sentence.

An accurate statement is that would-be teachers are not willing to work under challenging classroom conditions at the current salary structure.

The question then becomes whether we gradually turn over our education system to foreign-born, non-U.S. citizen teachers or do we start today to make the necessary adjustments to attract more capable Americans?

Here is the two-fold solution.

  • First, teachers, especially beginning teachers, must earn higher salaries that are consistent with California's cost of living.

  • Second, the credentialing standards must be such that talented out of state teachers with years of experience who want to work in California can do so without having to take worthless classes and student teach.

I received several letters from teachers throughout the country who wanted to come to California but were turned off by the unreasonable credentialing demands.

How the Filipino teachers will become credentialed without jumping through the same hoops remains a mystery even after two weeks of trying to get a straight answer.

In short, California needs to tackle its root problems regarding the teacher shortage—wages and credentialing constraints.

Hiring abroad is a band-aid solution that hurts students and discourages young, bright Americans from pursuing an education career.



Nothing demonstrates the futility of life in California more than the trend—perhaps now irreversible—of hiring foreign-born teachers to teach the foreign-born.

In terms of their overall effectiveness, California schools have sunk to the bottom of the barrel nationwide. The main reason is excessive immigration into the state.

Now we are building new schools faster than we can staff them. Then we go to the Philippines for more immigrants who will never return to their native country and will soon bring their own families or start new ones and thus create the quintessential Catch-22.

Wyoming, here I come!

Peter Brimelow adds: We don't edit our syndicated columnists—Joe's View From Lodi also appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel - but I can't resist noting that, as an economic libertarian, I argued in my book Worm In The Apple that the K-12 education industry's problem is its socialist structure and its consequent  capture by a rent-seeking politicized parasite, the teacher union. Wages and credentials are not the "root problems", but merely two (very serious) symptoms. A privatized education industry would achieve better results at lower cost – and not require endless additional input, whether money or foreign labor. Interestingly, Britain's immigration problem began with the very similar importation of Caribbean nurses to prop another socialized industry: the National Health System.

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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