By Rodney J. Jaleco
WASHINGTON D.C. – Filipino teachers who’ve lost their jobs in Maryland have gotten help from an old but influential friend the Catholic Church.
About a dozen mentors terminated from Baltimore City public schools applied with private Catholic schools and have received R visas that is usually given to church members.
“Napaka minimal ng sweldo. Yung iba half lang sinusweldo kaya may iba nagbenta na ng bahay (The pay is minimal. They get just half of their previous salary forcing some to sell their houses)” disclosed Isabella Mangonon of the Association of Filipino Teachers in America (AFTA).
“Pero I tell them na okay lang yan. Yung papel mahirap hanapin, ang pera madali na lang habulin, (But I tell them that’s okay. Papers are difficult to come by but money problems are easier to solve)” she added. Finding jobs with Catholic schools, though temporary, will at least stave off possible deportation after their H-1B visa expires.
Labor Attache Luz Padilla tells the Manila Mail that they have met with officials of the Archdiocese of Washington. “We were trying to see if there were opportunities for Filipino teachers in Catholic schools,” she explained.
But they were told the Archdiocese, which runs 98 schools in the Metro DC region, do not sponsor H-1B visa workers. “They suggested we talk with the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) so they can refer us to some Catholic schools that need teachers,” Padilla averred.
“It’s a long-standing policy according to the Archdiocese that they don’t sponsor H-1Bs but the fact that they referred us to somebody who may be in a position to help is good enough,” she stressed.
The NCEA is the largest private professional education organization in the world representing 200,000 educators serving 7.6 million students in Catholic elementary and secondary schools, religious education programs, in seminaries and in colleges and universities.
Padilla pointed out that “the Church understands what happened to our teachers is not fair.”
Mangonon said Baltimore City school officials will meet with international teachers and they don’t expect good news to come out of it. There are about 600 Filipino teachers in Baltimore public schools.
Some of the teachers have crossed state lines and found jobs in schools in Philadelphia , Arizona and New Mexico .
Mangonon said teachers from Baltimore are often prized by schools in other parts of the US . “Para sa marami kasi kung galing ka Baltimore schools which are very tough, alam nila ang teachers kahit papaano medyo mas mahusay, walang problema (For many if they see you come from Baltimore schools which are very tough, they know the teachers are better so there’s no problem),” she explained.
She also revealed that the Baltimore public school system has started refunding fees collected from the teachers that the US Labor Department declared illegal and that got the Prince George ’s public school system in hot waters earlier this year.
The Labor Department had ordered the PG schools to pay back over $4 million they got from their Filipino teachers and barred them from hiring foreign teachers for the next 2 years.
Filipino teachers from PG county have protested the Labor Department order because instead of helping them as victims, it actually gives PG county school officials justification to stop hiring them. Many of the more than 800 Filipino teachers there will be forced to return to an uncertain future in the Philippines .
“The Baltimore teachers are in a better shape than PG county,” Padilla said. “They’ve started refunding the money so they don’t suffer the same fate as PG county.”
“Some have gotten the reimbursements, there’s about 90 but sabi nila next pay day meron na (they said next pay day the rest will get it),” Mangonon said. (rjj)