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Arizona Looks Toward the Philippines to Fill Teacher Positions

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Faced with a large number of teacher openings but no applicants, some Arizona schools have turned to the Philippines this school year to fill open positions, according to azcentral.

Casa Grande Union High School District Superintendent Shannon Goodsell had 19 faculty openings at the beginning of the summer, but no job applications. The article attributes teacher shortages in the state to the low pay and high demands associated with the job.

According to data the Arizona Department of Education cited, there are approximately 95,000 certified teachers, but only 52,000 teaching this year.

Goodsell initially hired recent education college graduates, but later began Skyping with high school teachers in the Philippines who were interested in working in the United States. They had heard about Casa Grande Union's need for teachers through an agency, Avenida International Consultants Inc., that connects American employers with workers in the Philippines.

Goodsell decided to hire 11 Filipino teachers after seeing videos of their teaching skills and interviewing them.

"They have master's degrees and most have bachelor's degrees in the subjects that they teach," Goodsell told Azcentral. "It has been working very well."

The new teachers were required to obtain three-year work visas and foreign teaching certificates to be qualified to teach in the United States.

Several other rural Arizona districts have hired Filipino teachers recently, but some people have questioned the need to look overseas for qualified teachers, seeing it as a temporary solution to a larger, structural problem.

"If we are going all the way across the world when we have qualified teachers right here in Arizona, we should be asking why they are leaving," Andrew Morrill, president of the Arizona Education Association, told azcentral.

Mari Koerner, dean of Arizona State University's Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College offers one answer, by pointing to the meager salary of a new teacher in Arizona.

"Your salary is a sign of how much you are valued," she said. "A low salary means you are not valued, that you are easily replaceable."

The troubles reported in Arizona seem to correlate with studies that show Arizona offers some of the nation's worst working conditions for teachers. A new meta-analysis by the personal finance site WalletHub says Arizona is the 46th worst state for teachers to work in, and a separate report from the Center for American Progress released in July shows Arizona to be in the bottom-fifth of states in terms of teacher salary.

In a recent Education Week Commentary, William J. Sims proposed the idea that the United States could reallocate money from its national defense budget toward subsidizing teacher salaries and paying for teacher education. 

"The right response is for America to entice its strongest candidates into the teaching profession," he says.

Image by Judy Baxter/Flickr Creative Commons. 

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