Later this month, the county should know how many teachers it will be losing this year. Teacher retention is an on-going problem for the county. Due to salary constraints, the county is forced to recruit fresh, green teachers right out of school, usually from states like Pennsylvania that require three or more years of experience before they can teach there. After they get teaching experience here, they tend to move on, either back home or to higher paying regions. Our students are stuck with a revolving door of inexperienced teachers.
As Northampton struggles to keep, and even pay teachers, the administration may want to look at a small but growing movement to recruit teachers from overseas. This may be a way to obtain highly qualified and experienced teachers in a place where tax revenue is too low to adequately fund schools, or for teachers to secure a middle-class lifestyle.
Teachers from countries such as the Philippines hold J-1 visas, which allow them to work temporarily in the United States, like au pairs or camp counselors, but offer no path to citizenship. More than 2,800 foreign teachers arrived on American soil last year through the J-1, according to the State Department, up from about 1,200 in 2010.
The J-1 lasts three years, with the option for two one-year extensions.
School districts that recruit experienced teachers from overseas say that they have few other options because they can’t find enough American educators willing to work for the pay that’s offered. They say that the foreign teachers are being given valuable opportunities and that American students are enriched by learning from them.
Critics argue the teachers are being taken advantage of in a practice that helps keep wages low and perpetuates yearslong austerity policies.
School administrators have admitted that in many cases, foreign educators can be a better option for students than the inexperienced teachers or substitutes who would otherwise fill these positions. As we are seeing in our county, poor teacher retention negatively impacts academic achievement. J-1 teachers are, because of the visa’s limitations, temporary. Yet unless Northampton can find a way to higher pay and regular raises, it will continue to be hard to attract enough quality American teachers and keep them in the classroom.