Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Korea isn't the only country screwing foreign teachers...

When I worked in Korea, one of the "hot topics" that Korean bloggers who were English teachers enjoyed (endlessly) blogging (and complaining) about was how some disreputable and shady hagwons liked to exploit their foreign English teachers and screw them out of money, time, and benefits promised them in contracts or guaranteed by Korean labor law.

Newsflash, children:  Korea isn't the only offender in the screw-the-foreign-teacher game.

My very own employer in the U.S., Prince George's County Public Schools in Maryland, is in hot water for failing to comply with U.S. labor laws regarding paying the visa fees for foreign employees.  In today's Washington Post article by Robert Samuels, "Federal investigation: Pr. George’s owes foreign teachers millions," PGCPS was sanctioned by the Department of Labor on behalf of mostly Filipino teachers recruited for math and science positions.  They were called a "willful violator" of labor law:
School officials recruited the foreign instructors for classes such as math and science that were hard to fill but then required that the teachers cover thousands of dollars in expenses related to getting temporary work visas — expenses that, Labor Department officials said, should have been covered by the system. That violated laws requiring that U.S. and foreign teachers be compensated equally.

Federal officials have labeled the Prince George’s County Public School System a “willful violator’’ of labor laws and could forbid it to get any more temporary work visas, the majority of which were given to educators from the Philippines.

Our defense?  "We didn't know."  It is so like PGCPS to plead incompetence in order to wriggle out of what amounts to a criminal finding.  They are now open to civil lawsuits on the matter.  As if we didn't have enough budget problems.

Now, I will admit that I do not work for the most reputable of counties.  They do not have a history of treating teachers well and frequently have "scandals" at all levels of administration (most recently our County Executive was indicted for corruption and removed from office in February of this year).   There's a reason I'm leaving at the end of this school year and never, ever looking back.

However, it will be hard now for the screwed over EFL worker in Korea to now claim that it would "never" happen back in America.  It just did.

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