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Privatization and Outsourcing of K-12 Education

Tennessee recently announced plans to make an investment of $117 million in teacher salaries. It’s the biggest K-12 education investment in the state’s history. Tennessee has seen substantial returns on their investment in providing college education to all residents and so it seems they are now ramping up their K-12 education funding. States that invest in education benefit from exceptional workforce readiness, better tax revenue, and fewer of the societal problems caused by poverty. It’s good for the state, good for business, and good for people.

Meanwhile, other states like Iowa are reducing K-12 public education investments by millions of dollars. States that don’t make public education a priority are understandably having poorer outcomes and schools are facing financial challenges. Some schools are simply closing.

The gutting of public education funding is seen as a preparation for privatization of K-12 education. Limiting access to high quality education helps to establish a larger population of people without access to education, job skills, and opportunities and thus willing to work for low pay. This is a good situation for those trying to maximize profits by paying workers as little as possible. This is a bad situation for laborers working multiple jobs and living from paycheck to paycheck.

As Tennessee has seen, “a rising tide lifts all boats.” We don’t get ahead by putting others down. By giving everyone education, job skills, and opportunities, everyone is lifted up and we all have greater success.

The videos below offer insights into the impact of privatizing education and outsourcing. Public schools with less funding are looking for ways to save money, and one way to save money is to outsource teaching to foreign teachers. There are 500 schools in the U.S. with visiting Pilipino teachers on J1 Visas.

Charter Schools

“School choice is an education reform movement that promotes charter schools and voucher programs as alternatives to traditional public schools. One of the biggest advocates for “choice” over the past two decades, Betsy DeVos, is now serving as President Trump’s secretary of education. VICE’s Gianna Toboni traveled to DeVos’ home state of Michigan to see school choice in action and understand what the future of public education might look like.” (VICE News, YouTube, 21 Feb 2020)

America’s Newest Outsourced Job: Public School Teachers (Vice News, 9 Sep 2019)

Outsourcing jobs is nothing new to the United States. The country has been recruiting foreign labor to do its dirty work for decades — farmers, meat-packers, home healthcare workers, cooks. But now the U.S. needs teachers, and it needs them badly.

The same conditions that have led thousands of U.S. educators to strike and protest — like stagnant wages, underfunded schools, and overcrowded classrooms — have also contributed to a long list of vacancies in virtually every state.

The Department of Education’s database suggests there are 46 states with vacancies (47 if you include the District of Columbia). And each of them has sizable needs that span several disciplines. Some states need teachers in all grades for almost all subjects.

So public schools have been getting creative.

Over the past decade, school districts around the U.S. have quietly begun using the J-1 visa program, which was originally created as a means of temporary cultural exchange, to fill persistent teacher vacancies. And no country has stepped up quite like the Philippines. In 2009, there were only a handful of public schools with Filipino teachers on J-1 visas, according to data from the U.S. Department of State. Today, there are more than 500, spanning at least 19 states throughout the country.

VICE News Tonight traveled to Manila to report on what’s slowly becoming America’s newest outsourced job, and embeds with the first 27 Filipino teachers hired by Chicago Public Schools.

Foreign Teacher Lands in Rural America: ‘I Was Surprised’ (VOA News, 24 Jul 2019)

Charmaine Teodoro is a Filipina recruited to teach math at a rural school in Colorado experiencing a teacher shortage. Now in her second year and on a J-1 visa, Teodoro talks about her future plans, the challenges she faced in her first year, and the cultural differences between the two countries, especially when teaching teenagers.

By Greg Johnson

Greg Johnson is a freelance writer and tech consultant in Iowa City. He is also the founder and Director of the ResourcesForLife.com website. Learn more at AboutGregJohnson.com

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