YAKIMA, Wash. – Washington school districts, as well as those in other states, are increasingly looking overseas to recruit teachers for specialized positions.
The Grandview School District, for example, hired Angela Munda from Cebu City in the Philippines in 2013 to work as a speech language pathologist, and she’s remained on the job for nearly three years through a special H-1B visa for skilled workers, the Yakima Herald reports.
“I thought it would be tough, but I also thought I would be exposed to more trainings,” she said. “I love working with people of all nationalities; it’s a way of enhancing your career, learning some Spanish.”
Grandview is among several Yakima Valley school districts that are hiring foreigners to fill special education, math and English as a second language positions. Grandview and the Wapato School District both worked with consultant Ligaya Avenida to recruit teachers from the Philippines.
Avenida does not charge the districts, but does require the educators to pay about $11,000 in fees for evaluations, a visa, transportation, teaching licenses and other expenses, according to the news site.
Munda, and Wapato teacher Perlito Obispo, also from the Philippines, are paid the same as local educators, and currently earn salaries around $45,000 a year.
“Avenida said the approximately 20 school districts she works with stateside reached out to her because they face educator shortages,” the Herald reports. “While these agencies can provide eager schools with solutions to their hiring issues, some have caught flack over the practice. In 2012, 350 Filipino teachers working in Louisiana won a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against a placement firm over exploitation in their contracts.”
The Huffington Post last fall highlighted a similar trend of schools in other areas of the country hiring bilingual teachers from Puerto Rico. Puerto Rican teachers are among the most heavily recruited because they’re “already U.S. Citizens, (and) don’t require a visa if they decide to leave the island and its struggling economy behind to go work on the mainland.”
“Oklahoma City Public Schools, for instance, started the school year in August with more than a dozen new teachers from Puerto Rico, including Iriana Sanchez, a kindergarten teacher who left because ‘it’s hard to get a job there, and here I feel very welcome,’” according to the post.
Dallas and Houston area school districts are also heavily recruiting from Puerto Rico, and the former is also expanding recruitment for bilingual educators to Mexico and Spain.
Jordan Carlton, head of the Dallas Independent School District’s recruitment team, pointed to the increasing demand for bilingual teachers as the main reason the district is looking abroad for employees.
“As bilingual programs in Dallas and across the state continue to grow, the need for bilingual teachers increases exponentially each year,” he said.
The demand, no doubt, is tied to a massive increase in unaccompanied illegal immigrant minors flooding across the Texas border from Mexico in recent years.
It’s also fueled by less supply, as fewer U.S. students are interested in pursuing education degrees, a situation that’s also pushed lawmakers in several states to create nontraditional paths into the classroom for successful professionals looking for a career change.