The destruction of teaching as a US profession continues to move forward.
Takepart yesterday reported on the increasing use of teachers from the Philippines to fill empty spots in the US. The article focuses on this move as a response to teacher shortages in Arizona, but it alludes to teacher shortages around the country.
This is a tricky subject. On the one hand, teacher shortages are a fairly predictable outcome of the continued assault on the profession. By stripping teachers of autonomy, dropping the pay level, reducing teaching to clerical script-reading work, removing all job security, gutting the parts of teaching that traditionally attract people, and denigrating the profession on a regular basis, the Folks In Charge have assured that teaching today is far less attractive as a profession than it has ever been. For example, given the current conditions there, what person in her right mind would pursue teaching as a lifelong career in North Carolina?
On the other hand, teacher "shortages" are being used as an excuse for any number of misbehaviors. The article mentions a group of Filipino teachers recruited to teach in Baton Rouge, and if gulf coast Louisiana, where 7500 teachers were wrongfully fired from the New Orleans school district-- if that part of the country has a teacher shortage, I'll eat my hat.
The importing of Filipino teachers is already revealing itself to be borderline human trafficking. Those Baton Rouge teachers won a $4.5 million suit against the "recruiters" who charged them $7K for their "applications" and demanded a cut of their wages. Turns out these kinds of shenanigans are not that uncommon.
Nor is the article very forthcoming on the wage issue. The income that the Filipinos make is described as ten times what they could make back home, but it doesn't address whether they are paid the same that a home-grown teacher would have made. Are they being hired at US bargain prices? It's hard not to suspect as much.
In US labor issues, management often develops a sudden lack of understanding of how the free market works. So let me refresh their sad memories.
The free market sets prices by a very simple mechanism. If you want to buy gold for a penny a pound, you offer that amount. If nobody will sell you gold at that price, you have to offer more. You have to keep offering more until somebody will sell.
It is no different for labor. If you want to pay a dollar a day to hire someone for a job, and nobody will take the job, you have to offer more, and keep offering more until someone says, "Yes."
If you have a labor "shortage," then unless you are on a desert island with just two other people, you don't really have a labor shortage at all. What you have is a Willing To Meet the Minimum Conditions Under Which People Will Work For You shortage. Even minimum wage employers, who in lean times will advertise that they're hiring for more than minimum wage, get that.
In a very real sense, there is no teacher shortage in this country at all. What there is is an unwillingness to make teaching an appealing profession that people will actively pursue and stay with for a lifetime. Depending on your location,it may be about money, or autonomy, or job security, or basic teaching conditions (if you're in some place like North Carolina, sorry, but it's all of the above). Another question the article doesn't ask is this-- why isn't Arizons headhunting in other states? Even Virginia (not exactly a teachers' paradise) recognized that North Carolina teachers were ripe for poaching. Why would you recruit teachers from the Philipines, unless you were specifically looking to recruit people who would work for less than the professionals here on the mainland?
Of course, if no one will sell you gold for a penny a pound, another alternative is to find somebody who will sell you really shiny metal that's sort of gold colored. And if your business model is actually about selling fake gold at huge profit to suckers who mistake it for the real thing, this arrangement is perfect. Since many of our reformsters don't really want lifetime career teachers anyway (too expensive, too uppity), refusing to meet the conditions for employment is a great way to shut out the "overqualified" labor they don't want.
That this brings human trafficking into the world of education is no surprise. Much of modern school reform is based on a disregard for the humanity of students and teachers, and one huge thrust of reform has been to define teaching down from a skilled profession to unskilled labor. Trying to profit from trafficking in that labor just seems like a logical extension of the ethics already in play. It's appalling and inexcusable, but it's not unexpected.