As teachers in multiple states stage walkouts to protest low pay, the New York Times reports on a trend taking place in some public schools: hiring foreign workers willing to teach for the wages that Americans aren't. Those who support the practice, which involves overseas teachers coming in via the State Department's J-1 visa program, say it's a win-win for many: The foreign teachers expose their US students to different cultures and are more appealing options than long-term subs, and in turn receive a lucrative gig relative to what they made back home. Critics, however, say the foreign recruitment just ensures teachers aren't paid what they should be and that students see too much teacher turnover. "The use of the J-1 visa program to fill long-term shortages is an abuse of an exchange program," the head of the American Federation of Teachers notes.
The foreign teachers pay hefty fees to job brokers, live in often-crowded living conditions, and don't have a path toward permanent residency through the J-1 program, as the visas last a maximum of 5 years and don't facilitate citizenship. The number of foreign teachers coming in through this program has definitely spiked in recent years: Per the State Department, in 2010 there were 1,200, while last year that number jumped to 2,800; in Arizona, a hotbed state for teacher strikes, 2010 saw 17 teachers receive new J-1 visas, while last year that number was close to 200. The countries sending the most teachers to America: the Philippines, Jamaica, and China. Despite the pushback against foreign recruitment, one Filipino teacher in Arizona says he's thankful he's had the chance. "The district is very supportive," he says.