Tuesday, January 31, 2012


The jobs of hundreds of Filipino teachers in Baltimore public schools are hanging on the results of a “market test” that will show whether they’re still needed in the next school year.

Manila Mail sources revealed the Baltimore public school system will rely on the “market test” to gauge teaching needs, especially where and what subjects teacher shortages may occur. That would be the time they will decide whether to renew the Filipino mentors’ work permits, one teacher said.

The number of Filipinos in Baltimore public schools has dropped from a peak of about 700 to only 500, according to one teacher’s estimate. Many have gone back to the Philippines.

Just last week, a Filipino teacher returned to the Philippines after being hospitalized for cancer for over 2 months. “She was a doctor back home but worked as a special education (SPED) teacher in Baltimore after getting certified. She went home because her husband, who’s still there, is also a doctor,” one teacher shared with the Manila Mail.

That seemed to underline the sacrifices made by these Filipinos to help American schoolchildren. Most of them arrived between 2005 and 2007 to fill positions in some of Maryland’s toughest schools – so difficult that they scared off many native teachers, one Filipino mentor declared.

The Baltimore Sun reported a meeting last month between Filipino teachers and school system officials. Supporters of the Filipino teachers also spoke out. “They’re devoted, they work hard and they stay,” the paper quoted teacher Bill Bleich.

“We asked them to come. I do believe we have people who care about the kids, so let’s care about the teachers,” a teacher coordinator, Margot Young, was also quoted by the Baltimore Sun.

Some Filipino teachers are not waiting for the axe to fall. One source revealed that a number of them have gone to Arizona and even outside the United States where their skills are needed. “They talk so when one of them finds a job, they tell their friends and they follow wherever that may be,” she told the Manila Mail.

This has prompted Baltimore public school officials to fire off a warning to the other international teachers not to leave their jobs in the middle of the school season.

School authorities stressed that under H-1B visa rules, they have to prove foreign teachers are still needed and more importantly, hiring them will not deprive jobs to American educators.

According to the Baltimore Sun, the city’s public schools chief executive Andres Alonso reported a surplus of 100 teachers. That’s in contrast to the shortage of 200 teachers they reported in 2005.

A more stringent application of H-1B visa rules is attributed to the experience of the Prince George’s County public schools that was levied a huge fine and barred from hiring foreign teachers for 2 years after they admitted illegally collecting placement fees from their Filipino teachers.

The Department of Labor, which imposed the penalties, appears unlikely to reverse its decision and appeals from Filipino teachers have turned to litigation as some fight to stay in the US.

The misunderstanding stems in part to promises allegedly made to teachers when they were recruited in the Philippines that the school system would help them get a “green card”. But it turned out both the Baltimore and Prince George’s County public schools were ill-equipped to shepherd the Filipino mentors through the immigration maze.

“This has been unbelievably complex,” Alonso was quoted saying, “It has been a messy process.”

In the meantime, the anxiety of Filipino educators just keeps growing.

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