Sunday, April 10, 2011

On the issues of Filipino teacher migrants in PGCPS

Going through The Washington Post’s 4.4.11 article, “US Dep’t of Labor orders MD. School system to pay millions to mostly Filipino teachers” is like reading a familiar history story. On August 12, 1901, a group of 500 American teachers, the Thomasites, came to the Philippines to help establish the country’s public school system, to teach basic education, and to introduce innovative and effective way of teaching kids. My research tells me that the U.S. government spent about $105,000 for the expedition in 1901. More American teachers followed the Thomasites in 1902, making a total of about 1,074 stationed in the Philippines. I have seen the reverse of this happening right now; actually, I am experiencing it. According to the AFT report “Importing Educators”, “On the international level, UNESCO estimates that 18 million new teachers are needed by 2015 to meet ‘Education for All’ goals and ensure universal access to primary education for students in all countries in the world”. In the past few years, I have seen hundreds of teachers from the Philippines coming to different parts of the US, including PG County Public Schools with this mission: to teach the American school children.

It was not easy for the Filipino teachers to make this righteous decision and accept this noble challenge for they had to give up their homes, sell their properties, and make a sacrifice to be away from their loved ones. They did not have to, but unfortunately, they paid a very high price for this, approximately $15,000 out of their pockets. The Philippine government did not deploy and pay them to come here; it was their personal decision to make a difference to the American students. These Filipino teacher migrants stayed true to their mission, they reached out to everyone in the community and were able to pull in some 21st Century resources and help the students maximize their potential. Even PGCPS attested to the fact that “without these Filipino teachers, Maryland’s most precious resource – our children - would have been denied access to quality public education”.

I am pleased to hear that my fellow Filipino teachers are making a positive impact in their school district. What is alarming is that according to The Washington Post’s article, “DOL investigation found out that the teacher migrants, who were hired between 2005 and 2010, paid fees ranging from $190 to $320 to file their visas; spent about $1,000 in immigration attorney fees; and shelled out another $3,500 in placement fees. Hundreds also paid a $500 anti-fraud filing fee.” Where did the rest of the approximately $15,000 that each teacher pay for go? Shouldn’t PGCPS have policies in place for hiring international teachers to avoid these kinds of violations and exploitations? It is an irresponsible act of negligence if they do not have one.

I hope that the proper county authorities would go to the bottom of this to help find out what went wrong and who did wrong. I still believe in the fairness and sense of propriety of PGCPS in reaching an equitable end to this sorry affair.

- Maria Angala, NBCT -
Filipino teacher migrant, Washington DC

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