August 21, 2011
We, international teachers of Prince George’s County, reach out to you for understanding and support, as we fight a grossly unjust US Department of Labor ruling and its settlement agreement with Prince George’s County Public School System (PGCPS), which was found to be in willful violation of the country’s laws. This DOL ruling and the subsequent settlement with PGCPS will result to the termination of hundreds of credentialed foreign teachers and will have a damaging impact on the quality of education for your children.
PGCPS aggressively recruited us, highly-qualified foreign educators, to be able to comply with the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Law. With promises of job security and a stable future in the country, we eagerly took up this call to not only educate, but to nurture the minds of the students in this district.
Many of us took this vocation of service wholeheartedly but with much personal sacrifice. We left our country of origin, our families, our homes and our lives. We took out thousands of dollars in loans to be able to come here to work in a country that was foreign to us. But we did so with an open and trusting heart. We believed in the American dream and we believed in the opportunities that could be sought here, the fairness of its laws and its system of equality for all.
Little did we know that our trust in this system would later be used against us. After a DOL investigation was launched, PGCPS was soon found to be a willful violator of wage and hour laws. By having us spend for visa processing fees, which by law was supposed to have been shouldered by PGCPS, the DOL affirmed that this is equivalent to deductions to our wages, and thus, we were paid lower wages than what is federally mandated.
At the conclusion of the investigation, we learned that part of the punishment for this indiscretion was a ruling that debarred PGCPS from participating in the guest worker program in the next two years. This means PGCPS will be prohibited from hiring more foreign educators and from extending the visas of the current foreign teachers as well. In short, we, the victims of the violations of PGCPS and who have been working and sacrificing in the county for the past few years, are being terminated and are now at a risk of deportation. The processing of visa renewals and even green cards, promised to most of us, has been put to a halt.
PGCPS has committed a grave violation against its educators and what’s worse is that your children will suffer greatly from the unfair decision too. We believe that our presence in the community has had an impact on the steady gains in the performance of your children. During our period of service in the county, there has been an overall increase in reading and math scores and a general improvement of scores on the Maryland School Assessment (MSA). We are proud of our contributions; however, we don’t believe that our achievements end with these statistics and figures. We’ve remained committed to providing the highest quality of education; to serve your children and the county by teaching with passion and imparting the love of learning to our students.
We ask you, not only as parents who have a big stake in the education system, but as conscientious citizens who value fairness, to stand with us now, as we demand just and equal treatment. We ask you to support us as we have supported and sacrificed for the betterment of your children. Please tell PGCPS and the DOL that this injustice must stop. Please communicate to them and to others in the community to let them know that you stand in solidarity in our fight for dignity, fairness and respect.
Prince George’s County International Teachers
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