The Chicago public schools are facing such a severe shortage of math and science teachers that the system has teamed up with two federal agencies to recruit teachers overseas.
The nation’s third-largest district announced last month it had reached agreements with the U.S. Department of Labor and the Immigration and Naturalization Service to bring in foreign teachers for up to six years.
While other districts, such as New York City, have sought qualified teachers abroad, the Chicago initiative is unique because the INS will issue visas similar to those used to fill shortages in high-tech fields.
Under the global-educators-outreach program, the Labor Department has certified that Chicago has a critical shortage of teachers in mathematics, the sciences, world languages, and bilingual education. Qualified applicants in those fields will receive work certificates.
The INS has agreed to provide, as a block, up to 50 H-1B temporary visas each year to allow teachers to work in Chicago public schools. The district will be the official sponsor for the participating teachers, and will decide after their first, fourth, and fifth years of service whether to continue sponsorship.
At the end of the six-year period, the district can sponsor the teachers for permanent visas.
As of last week, the district had received about 250 inquiries from prospective teachers in China, India, the Philippines, Spain, and countries in the Middle East, said Gery Chico, the president of the school board.
The district has about 75 vacancies in critical-shortage areas and hires nearly 2,000 teachers a year. Overseas recruits would be members of the Chicago Teachers Union, which has supported the effort, the board president said.
“This is a great way to do two things—solve the shortage and build in diversity and multicultural exposure,” he said.
Chicago is recruiting teachers—who must speak English fluently—over the Internet, through advertisements in foreign newspapers, and by direct contact with top universities, officials said.
In particular, the schools plan to target foreign nationals attending college in the United States on student visas.
The district will provide a six-week orientation and training program for the teachers, including lodging and a stipend. Once assigned to jobs, they will be allowed to borrow up to three months’ salary to cover fees associated with their move.
In addition, the district will apply to the state of Illinois for temporary teaching certificates for the applicants. Within four years of being hired, the foreign teachers must complete the requirements for a regular license.
New York City is recruiting math and science teachers from Austria, using ads in Austrian newspapers. The district has 24 Austrian teachers this year, each of whom is working on a temporary, individual visa. The district hopes such teachers will stay two years, according to Margie Feinberg, a spokeswoman for the board of education.
A version of this article appeared in the January 19, 2000 edition of Education Week as Chicago Makes Deal With Feds To Hire Foreign Teachers