City Getting Visas To Hire Top Teachers From Abroad

Chicago school officials will receive 100 temporary work visas a year to recruit top-notch teachers from abroad to fill critical shortages in math, science and foreign languages, under an unprecedented federal program, officials said Friday.

Chicago is the nation’s only public school district to arrange a program with the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service that uses six-year work visas to ease a teacher shortage, Chicago school and INS spokesmen said.

The Labor Department has declared a critical teacher shortage in math, science, foreign languages and bilingual education, and the INS is allowing the visas to be used for teachers for the first time, officials said. Such visas are often used for research and science laboratories facing labor shortages, officials said.

“This will make us a better school system, and it will help globalize the thinking of our students more,” said school board President Gery Chico. “We are a global city and we want to be more of a global city.”

But school officials backed off from descriptions that the program imports teachers, saying that 100 hires would represent only about 5 or 6 percent of the system’s annual teacher hiring.

Schools chief Paul Vallas said, “The reality of the matter is that as we enhance education (with additional math, science and foreign language programs), the demand for more qualified teachers in critical needs areas is going to grow.”

Vallas said the system is using more alternative certification programs to recruit top graduate students and mid-career professionals in non-education fields to become teachers under a shortened certification process.

School officials said they have already arranged visas for three foreign graduate students studying in U.S. universities and plan to recruit from universities in other countries, including those in Chicago’s sister cities.

The so-called Global Educators Outreach program–to begin with 50 visas and to be formally announced Monday–allows recipients to work in the United States for six years, officials said. Teachers can apply for residency afterward, officials said.

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