- More than 50 teachers recruited from the Philippines are working in one Arizona school district at the same time teachers in the state — who were among the lowest-paid in the country — walked out for six days late last month to protest state education funding levels, The New York Times reports.
- One Filipino teacher said she was making 10 times more by working for the Pendergast Elementary School District in Glendale, AZ, through the J-1 visas program, which brought about 2,800 teachers to the U.S. last year, according to the State Department — up from about 1,200 in 2010.
- The effort is broadening the students’ “cultural experience,” increasing diversity and offering a way “to be innovative and creative in recruiting,” said a spokesperson for the district, which covers an area north of Phoenix that has been a hotbed of activism in the teacher strike.
The federal J-1 Visa program is designed to be a cultural and educational exchange initiative, and it recruits teachers from other countries who have a degree equivalent to a bachelors, two years of teaching experience, and are proficient in English. Generally they can stay for five years and can return to the U.S. after two years back home.
The American Association of School Administrators notes that attracting and hiring qualified teachers from other countries through the program can be challenging, and the Center for Immigration Studies has been critical of the way districts use them.
Some districts are considering such measures because of teacher shortages that the Learning Policy Institute says created a 64,000 shortfall in teachers in the 2015-16 school year, along with a shortage of substitutes that have been reported in Maine, Nebraska and Illinois.
Strikes have cropped up in at least five states where teachers want increases in stagnant wages, a resolution to pension underfunding, and more money for equipment, supplies and facilities in school budgets strapped by state and federal cuts.
In Oklahoma and West Virginia, administrators and school boards have voiced support for teachers. But in states like Colorado, school officials are limited by state laws or lacking public support for local tax increases, forcing one Colorado district to go to a four-day school week — which the National Conference of State Legislators estimates is happening in 550 cash-strapped districts.