The H-1B visa that allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations typically is associated with tech industry use. But the visa can have more far-reaching applications, as recent Capitol Hill actions showed. With the H-1B visas of 25 Baltimore teachers expiring, five Democratic members from the Maryland congressional delegation began to push for extensions.
The teachers’ H-1B history and the advocacy on their behalf to have them remain in the U.S. are familiar. They came to the U.S. years ago, 23 from the Philippines and two from Jamaica, as part of an effort to fill alleged job shortages in teaching slots for math, science and special education. According to a letter the Maryland teachers sent to then-Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, the teachers have been in the U.S. for between eight and 12 years, are dedicated and have now built lives in the U.S.
Let’s allow that the foreign-born teachers are dedicated professionals and that returning home after extended U.S. stays might be disruptive. At the same time, let’s reject the intellectually insulting suggestion that no qualified American math and science instructors are available on the East Coast who might want Baltimore teaching positions.
Teaching in Baltimore and other major cities is no doubt challenging. Among the drawbacks are that teachers have to cope with overcrowded, frequently unruly classrooms and must deal with largely unsympathetic parents, principals and state education department bureaucrats.
Since eliminating the teaching profession’s negatives is impossible, the other variable to analyze in an effort to attract more local candidates is wages which could be adjusted upward so that they’re more consistent with the demands of the jobs. The average starting salary for Maryland teachers is $44,675, which will net about $36,600 or about $3,000 monthly.
Assuming Maryland’s congressional representatives are sincere about finding a permanent solution to their teacher shortage, the place to begin would be increasing salaries and not importing more foreign-born instructors. For years, school districts in California, Texas and other states have been misusing the H-1B visa to displace higher salaried, more experienced teachers and also remove teaching opportunities for young, college graduates who have trained to be teachers.
By Joe Guzzardi for RED BLUFF DAILY NEWS
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