K-12 Education Systems May Be Losing Interest in H-1B

By David North, April 16, 2012

Recently, various types of evidence have emerged that show K-12 education is losing interest in hiring foreign teachers through the H-1B nonimmigrant worker program.

The inherent disadvantages of the program from the points of view of both students and unemployed U.S. teachers were described in two fairly recent CIS reports: "K-12 + H-1B = ? A First look at the Implications of Foreign Teacher Recruitment" and "The Grim World of Some H-1B Teachers".

Perhaps the most compelling evidence comes from the website h1bistro.com, which uses the Department of Labor's (DOL) extensive database on this program.

It shows that the number of H-1B teacher jobs certified by the DOL fell nationwide from 20,143 in FY2008 to 11,238 in FY 2011. State data also are available and Maryland's decline from 3,270 to 673 in the same time frame is particularly dramatic.

One of the reasons that the Maryland numbers have dropped is that the City of Baltimore, once a major recruiter of H-1 teachers from the Philippines, has cut back sharply on the use of foreign teachers. This was reported recently in a long article in the Baltimore Sun. According to the article:

More than 100 international teachers in the Baltimore city school system will most likely lose their jobs and work visas, after a recent labor market test conducted by the district showed that there were hundreds of foreign instructors teaching in subjects that could be filled by qualified and certified American teachers.

These teachers are apparently at the end of their second three-year H-1B visa and cannot get another extension as their employer has decided not to file green card applications for them. Baltimore, under pressure from DOL, has used an intensive labor market test to see if there are unemployed U.S. teachers who are qualified, certified, and interested in the jobs. Baltimore found a total of 213 U.S. residents who wanted jobs now held by the H-1Bs.

The Baltimore schools said that they could not find U.S. residents who were both certified to teach and had the needed background in science and special education, so out of a group of 154 foreign teachers wanting green cards the schools will still sponsor 46 of them and 108 of them will lose their jobs and their H-1B visas.

The Sun article devoted more space to the unhappiness of these about-to-be ousted teachers than anything else. The article used nothing from CIS's "The Grim World of Some H-1B Teachers", which told the story of six H-1B teachers from the Philippines working in the Baltimore area who had flagrantly violated federal income tax laws for three years running and had taken their cases to the U.S. tax court; nor was the fact that four of these six teachers were, or had been, in trouble with the schools.

Mainstream newspapers all too often hesitate to report on immigrants' failings unless they are confessed ax-murderers.

The Sun article, which fuzzed the difference between the H-1B and the green card processes, said that "Anxiety has been building among the group [of alien teachers] since March 2011 when teachers began receiving letters of denials of U.S. citizenship."

Presumably this was a reference not of denials of citizenship, over which the school board has no control, but of refusals by the system to file for green cards for the teachers.

Some teachers, seeing that they will not be able to stay in the United States, want to resign in the middle of the school year and the schools are resisting such resignations.

The article didn't discuss whether Baltimore schools will continue to use the H-1B program to recruit math, science, and special education teachers, but h1bistro.com reports only two certifications to the system in the first quarter of FY 2012, one for a math teacher and the other for a special education teacher. The report shows the withdrawal of an application for a secondary school teacher, not further defined.

Baltimore County and Prince George's County schools, also in Maryland, also have been heavy users of the H-1B system in the recent past.

Meanwhile, in a different arena, the Tennessee State Senate has passed a bill entitled "Charter Schools' Relationships with Foreign Entities". The State House of Representatives is scheduled to act on the bill today (Monday, April 16).

That bill would prohibit the chartering of schools that "intend to hire administrators, teachers, support, or other personnel by utilizing non-immigrant foreign worker H1-B or J-1 visa programs in excess of 3.5 percent of the total school positions in a school year."

The exact legislative background is not known to me, but it sounds like a reaction to one or more of the Gulen movement, or Turkish charter schools, which are known for their extensive use of the H-1B program to hire teachers from Turkey, usually teachers who have studied at Gulen-associated colleges there. Such teachers, by definition, lack U.S. educational credentials.

There are media and blog reports that the Gulen schools are planning to open the Knoxville Charter Academy in the fall of 2012 and the proposed legislation may be aimed at it.

For the text of this bill, the first one of its kind I have seen, see p. 72 of this state legislative document.

It would be an interesting precedent if it is passed intact.