Teachers, the New Migrant Workers

  • Share
  • Read Later
When the stock market-obsessed U.S. deems a profession to be too menial for its best and brightest, it imports drudge workers from abroad. At some point, teaching — once seen as noble — took on the status of low-end work, both in salary and prestige. So this week Chicago received federal clearance to become the second major city in recent years to import talent from abroad. The Windy City finds itself unable to fill at least 400 teaching vacancies each year, and it's not alone — earlier this year the Department of Labor declared a critical national labor shortage in teaching areas including science, mathematics and bilingual education. In October, Congress approved $1.2 billion for teacher training and hiring, but many on the Hill say the schools won't be able to find qualified teachers to use up the funds.

The deciding blow in forcing the INS's approval of work visas for teachers came from Education Secretary Richard Riley who, at a recent White House conference, declared that a quarter-million American teachers are either unfamiliar with the subjects they teach or lack any manner of training. The Chicago experiment will therefore be closely watched. A smaller program initiated in New York City last year, in which mathematics teachers were brought in from Austria, is getting high marks and was expanded this year. If the Chicago program shows similar success, educators expect Congress to adapt a wide-scale recruitment plan. Indeed, the U.S. actively recruits doctors, scientists and technology experts from abroad; why not raise the quality of the labor sector most often criticized by experts and parents alike?