An estimated 19,000 teachers were working in the United States on temporary visas as of 2007, but little information exists about the teachers’ characteristics, how they were recruited, or the conditions in which they teach, a report by the American Federation of Teachers says.
In fact, companies that recruit teachers from abroad are almost wholly unregulated, and some have subjected teachers to conditions similar to indentured servitude, it asserts.
Using calculations based on federal data about the H-1B work visa and the J-1 exchange visa, through which most teachers trained overseas are hired, the report finds that the number of such teachers has been rising over the past decade, and that the increased demand for them has also led to more opportunities for exploitation.
Culling from news reports, it says that some firms have forced teachers from abroad to live in substandard housing and to take out loans with usurious interest rates to secure passage to the United States. The report says they’ve also forbidden teachers to own vehicles and threatened them with deportation. Teachers employed by the companies, rather than by a school district, were especially vulnerable because they had no legal recourse through teachers’ unions, it says.
The report also asserts that international recruiting hurts recruitment and retention in the United States by relieving the pressure on officials “to address the root causes of teacher shortages and find domestic solutions.”
It calls on federal, state, and local officials to establish and enforce ethical standards for the international recruitment of teachers, and to improve data sources for tracking educators who come to teach in the United States.
A version of this article appeared in the September 23, 2009 edition of Education Week