Norm Matloff On Rishawn Biddle
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From Norm Matloff’s H-1B/L-1/offshoring e-newsletter.

Norm Matloff writes:

The enclosed article opens with "You would expect high tech giants such as Microsoft, Cisco Systems, and the U.S. division of India's tech support powerhouse, Infosys, to be among the biggest users of H-1B skilled-labor visas." [H-1B Education By RiShawn Biddle, August 12, 2008] Well, you would expect a right-wing magazine like the American Spectator to recognize the value of the market, which this article somehow glosses over.

The article's theme is that the nation's public school system is making use of a surprising number of H-1B teachers. It's not surprising to people who follow the H-1B story—see for example my e-newsletter Posting "The Rest Of The Story" On H-1b Teachers In Las Vegas"—but the author here, RiShawn Biddle, is quite right that this seldom shows up in the popular press.

Biddle cites some interesting education research, and that reason alone would be enough for me to spend some critiquing his article. Unfortunately, though, he errs badly when he swallows the claim that these H-1Bs are "needed." If he picks up a copy of the issue of the American Spectator in which his piece ran, the answer to that claim will be literally staring him in the face—the magazine, of course, is very much in favor of free markets, and if these school districts want American applicants, all they have to do is pay attractive salaries.

To be sure, Biddle does mention compensation, but apparently to him, it's just a matter of giving bonuses to good teachers. But obviously that wouldn't cut it. Even a 20% bonus would still result in woefully inadequate compensation compared to other professions. Moreover, even that bonus would be far from guaranteed, even for very good teachers, what with politics, bureaucracy and myriad random events not under the teacher's control. You don't solve a deeply-entrenched problem by minor adjustments, in this case with bonus pay. Overall teacher salaries need to be raised dramatically.

Concerning H-1B and the tech industry, Biddle simply hasn't done his homework. He swallows the industry lobbyist propaganda that we have a tech labor shortage, that our universities aren't graduating enough people in math and science fields, and so on. Yet the use of H-1Bs as cheap labor is well documented, including in two congressionally- commissioned reports and several university studies, and the recent Urban Institute study exposed the math/science education myths.

Though Biddle attempts to draw a contrast between the high-tech and educational employers of H-1Bs, the two groups have the same basic goal, to save on labor costs. This is detailed in my posting at the above URL, so I won't go into any further here, but that is literally the bottom line.

I remember back in 1998, when the industry lobbyists were screaming that there was an acute tech labor shortage, I was interviewed by an editor at Computerworld. He told me he was skeptical of the shortage claims, for a very simple reason: He said that in Boston, where CW is headquartered, the school districts were claiming an urgent teacher shortage, yet his wife, an experienced teacher, couldn't get a job there.

Again, Senator Grassley's comment on the industry claims regarding H-1B is right on point: "Nobody should be fooled."


[ Note: See also Peter Brimelow on Rishawn Biddle , and Joe Guzzardi on H-1B teachers.]
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