Some Arizona School Districts are Filling Teaching Jobs with Low-Cost Foreign Workers on Temporary Visas

Sometime Slate contributor Dana Goldstein has a wild story in the New York Times Wednesday about a visa program for foreign public-school teachers whose use is spreading in Arizona, whose educators have been engaged since last Thursday in a statewide strike. In dealing with what one study identified as the country’s deepest post-recession funding cuts, some school districts in the state have found they can only fill jobs at the wages being offered by bringing Filipino teachers who enter the U.S. on what’s called a J-1 visa. The conditions of these teachers’ lives, as described by Goldstein, call to mind those encountered by other immigrant workers in such notoriously exploitative industries as farming and food service:

• One teacher had to pay $12,500 to various brokers to obtain his job and didn’t earn his way out of debt until a year after he’d arrived in the U.S.
• The same teacher lived for a time in an apartment shared by five other teachers and now rents a single room in another family’s home.
• Eleven Filipino teachers in a different district commute 50 miles to school together by van each morning.
• J-1 visas cost $1,000 per year to renew, can only be used for a maximum of five years, and do not provide a path to permanent residence.

What it sounds like is a raw deal for almost everyone: The immigrant teachers who leave their families for second-class-citizen status abroad, the domestic teachers whose wages stay at a sub-middle class level, and the students who receive instruction from faculties that by definition involve high rates of harmful teacher turnover.

Complicating the issue somewhat as a matter of pure social outrage is that the United States already spends more on education than many other developed countries. There are caveats to that caveat, though, as outlined in this helpful 2015 Vox piece, including our lower rates of spending on other social programs that correlate with student success, disparities between poor and rich school districts, and the relative availability of better-paying jobs for college graduates. (In other words, the U.S. doesn’t necessarily pay teachers less than other countries—but we do pay them less when compared to the amount earned by other American professionals of commensurate educational attainment.)

Also, U.S. corporate profits and earnings are at record highs and Congress recently passed a $2 trillion tax cut.

In other words:

A satirical tweet by a man who is asking for help with a monthly family budget that includes $200 for food and $3,600 for candles; when someone tells him to spend less on candles, he replies "no."

Thanks to Twitter’s @dril for the analysis.



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