Importing foreign teachers in DeKalb and other places: Exploitation or good business?

AJC reporter Chris Joyner has done a great investigation on foreign teachers being imported to Georgia to fill voids, especially in DeKalb.

Shaheen Begum (right), a science teacher recruited from India to teach at Chamblee High School, gets a hug from one of her students. To get such talented teachers, the districts go through recruiting firms that sponsor the immigrants’ special H-1B visas, the largest of which is Morrow-based Global Teachers Research and Resources. Global already has been cited by the U.S. Labor Department for forcing teachers to pay fees the company should pay. JONATHAN PHILLIPS / SPECIAL

His investigation raises serious concerns about this practice, which is more widespread than most parents realize. Georgia school districts spent at least $52.5 million in taxpayer money over the last five years paying hundreds of foreign teachers to teach math, science and special education.

Joyner focuses on Global Teachers Research and Resources, a Jonesboro company that brings teachers to Georgia and is the target of a federal investigation into alleged unfair labor practices. The chief operating officer is state Rep. Mike Glanton, D-Jonesboro, a member of the House Education Committee.

DeKalb’s reliance on foreign teachers concerns school board member Marshall Orson. It should concern the entire board now that Joyner has detailed some of the questionable practices.

He found Global teachers without jobs were made to pay expenses federal visa regulations require employers to pay.  And some teachers told Joyner they pay an "administrative fee" --- up to 10 percent --- out of their paycheck to company, which also receives between $10,000 and $11,500 per teacher from school districts every year.

Orson told the AJC: "I am concerned that we default to finding an outside agency to find us teachers on a temporary basis. It has to be about how we build our permanent teaching corps."

This report is on, Here is a short excerpt:

Joyner writes:

The international market for teacher talent is a good deal for school districts, which get needed skilled instructors without paying for their benefits.

But human rights groups say the practice comes close to human trafficking and treats teachers like a commodity --- traded between school districts with little care given to their situation and with virtually no representation.

Lawsuits and federal investigations show the system can lead to abuses. In 2011, Global was fined more than $75,000 for failing to properly pay its employees and is under a new U.S. Department of Labor investigation for similar claims. Some employees say Global continues to violate the law and is erratic in how it pays its teachers.

The chief operating officer of the company is state Rep. Mike Glanton, D-Jonesboro, a member of the House Education Committee. "If it were not a need, then this H-1B teacher process would not be in place," he said. "We've recognized at the highest level that this is something we don't have a handle on and we have to bring people in from other places to do it."

One teacher, who asked not to be named out of fear for her job and immigration status, told the AJC that the company made her pay her own immigration costs and the costs of renewing her H-1B visa once she was here.

By far, the district relying the most of recruiting firms for immigrant teachers is DeKalb County, which has spent $16.3 million on such contracts since 2010, according to Open Georgia, an online database run by the state that tracks government spending.

Tekshia Ward-Smith, personnel director for the DeKalb County schools, said she would prefer American teachers, but there are not enough. In the meantime, hiring immigrant teachers through the recruiting firms provides DeKalb with "the best bang for our buck."

"They save us because we don't have to pay teacher's retirement on them nor benefits," she said. Ward-Smith said the district does not involve itself in the details of how the recruiting firms operate.

"They provide training, lodging, moving expenses. Is that taken out of the salary that the district pays? I can't say,” she said.


About the Author

Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey is a longtime reporter for the AJC where she has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy for...