Thursday, July 28, 2011


Thousands of teachers and concerned parents will converge this weekend in Washington DC in what organizers call a “national call to action to put the public back in public schools”.

It couldn’t come at a more fortuitous time as the White House and Congress grapple with the debt and deficit issues ahead of August 2 when the Treasury Department says the US government will run out of money to pay its obligations, unless the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling is raised. In the struggle to trim the budget, President Obama has warned that precipitous cuts could harm schools and jeopardize the nation’s future.

They will be joined by hundreds of Filipino teachers from Maryland who face their own crisis arising from a Labor Department debarment order against Prince George’s County public schools. The schools were caught “willfully violating” H-1 visa rules by illegally collecting fees from the teachers.

The “Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action” is being convened (starting today, July 28) to rescue America’s education system and improve learning opportunities for the nation’s children. “As concerned citizens, we demand an end to the destructive policies and rhetoric that have eroded confidence in our public schools, demoralized teachers and reduced the education of too many of our children to nothing more than test preparation,” its website declared.

Marisol Angala, an officer of the DC teacher’s union affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), has been urging Filipino teachers to also vent their frustrations there. The other major teachers union – the National Education Association – is supporting the Filipino teachers in PG County.

Meanwhile, the human rights group “Katarungan” has launched a petition campaign in support of the teachers. Katrina Abarcar said they aim to collect 5,000 signatures before August 5, when an administrative judge is expected to act on the agreement between the PG County Public Schools (PGCPS) and Department of Labor. The 2-year debarment order against PGCPS will not take effect until the judge ratifies the agreement.

You can visit the petition by clicking on

Saturday’s program – to be filled with speakers, poets, musicians and reportedly counting Hollywood star Matt Damon, among others – will center at the Ellipse fronting the White House’s south lawn.

“A well-educated society is essential to the future of the United States of America,” organizers said. “Our students must have access to a fully funded, world-class public education system, and it is our responsibility to hold our government accountable for providing the means to achieve it.”

The presence of Filipino teachers at the “Save Our Schools March” underlines their commitment to the US education system. They were recruited in the Philippines starting in 2003 to help troubled schools meet education standards. They were hired by schools that couldn’t attract American teachers, sometimes because they just didn’t feel safe enough to work there. The Filipino teachers filled the void, despite the risks and personal sacrifice of being uprooted from thousands of miles away.

If many are distraught by the debarment and the prospect of going home, it is not out of personal aggrandizement. Rather, these teachers feel invested in the schools they have worked with for the past several years, bonded to the community and the students they nurture. It is never easy to see one’s hard toil near fruition, to be suddenly told you can not join the harvest.

They can’t be too happy about going back to the same situation that pushed them to seek their fortunes across the seas in the first place.

And while the Fil-Am community has embraced the beleaguered mentors, we have to ask: what is the administration of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III doing to lift their plight? Why hasn’t the government gone after their recruiters – the people who pressured these teachers to fork out tens of thousands of pesos in fees that turn out, put them in hot water here?

Or what is President Aquino doing to improve life opportunities for teachers in the Philippines?

And what about Maryland school administrators who reportedly took junkets in the Philippines, sponsored by recruiters (in exchange for what?). Why hasn’t the US government looked into that?

A city that has been broiling from the summer heat and humidity as well as the politics, promises to get even hotter this weekend. Participants were enjoined to bring “lots and lots of water”.

No comments:

Post a Comment