OKLAHOMA CITY–In response to the conduct and execution of taxpayer-funded charter schools, such as bypassing Oklahoma teachers to hire teachers from overseas, Representative Ed Cannaday has filed an amendment to HB 3130 to address these concerns.
The Porum Democrat from Porum has filed an amendment that all charter schools that hire teachers on a H-1B temporary worker visa must file a report with the Oklahoma Department of Education showing proof of recruitment efforts to first hire qualified Oklahoma or U.S. residents.
“I find it hard to believe that given all the Oklahomans with bachelor’s degrees in education, and with the loss of public education jobs due to budget cuts, that any charter school is unable to scout out a teacher in our state and must therefore recruit teachers from the country of Turkey to fill these positions,” said Cannaday.
These comments reference the four Oklahoma charter schools that employ about 15 percent of their teachers from overseas using temporary nonimmigrant work visas. These schools are privately run by the Sky Foundation, but funded with state tax dollars.
Of the 149 teachers employed at these four charter schools in Oklahoma , 22 are here on H-1B visas.
Federal law allows employers unable to find qualified American employees to fill positions with foreign labor through a visa application process.
Two of the schools are in Oklahoma City : Dove Science Academy , grades six to 12, and Dove Science Academy Elementary, grades kindergarten to fifth. The other two schools are in Tulsa : Dove Science Academy , grades six to 12, and Discovery School of Tulsa, grades kindergarten to eighth.
The superintendent of the four Sky Foundation schools in Oklahoma , Kaan Camuz, said of 35 teachers at Dove Science Academy , 11 are from Turkey , Russia, Turkmenistan or Azerbaijan.
“I know these schools claim that there is a shortage of math and science teachers, so they allege that their only option is to recruit from overseas,” Cannady said. “Of interest is that the majority of these teachers come from Turkey , the home country of the founders of these charter schools.”
More than 120 charter schools nationwide, including the four Sky Foundation schools, were founded by Turkish nationals.
“Turkish teachers are displacing Oklahoman and American teachers, and on the taxpayers’ dime, to boot,” Cannady said. “I don’t believe they are really making efforts to bring on board local teachers, and as a former educator I am insulted that they make claims when applying for the federal visas that they were unable to find a single qualified candidates from not just our state but in our entire nation.”
According to the US Department of Labor, secondary school teachers were the fifth highest occupation for H-1B visas granted in Oklahoma in 2010.
Cannaday’s amendment further requires charter schools on the needs improvement list for three consecutive years to have their contract terminated or denied renewal.
“Charter schools receive state funding the same way public schools do,” he said. “One charter middle school in particular has been on the needs improvement list for three years now, and given that by definition charter schools do not have to adhere to many of the mandates that public schools do, I find it unacceptable that any taxpayer dollars are being funneled to charter schools that can’t meet the bare minimum.”
Unlike public schools, charter schools do not have to require that teachers have valid teaching licenses or certificates, that teacher assistants have a high school diploma, or that students are enrolled in a minimum of six periods of rigorous instruction. Neither do they have to require that the high school offer the mandated 38 units of credit, or have a graduation policy that requires the minimum 23 units or sets of competencies.
Of the 22 charter schools in Oklahoma , three were on the Needs Improvement List in 2011: the Justice Alma Wilson SeeWorth Academy in OKC, the Santa Fe South Elementary School and the Santa Fe South Middle School.
The Santa Fe South Middle School has been on the Needs Improvement List every year since 2008, which is considered consistently low performing.
For Fiscal Year 2011 the total state allocations for charter schools was $32,183,444.
“I hope to shed some light on those charter schools that receive public dollars but have very little accountability or oversight in areas that I deem important to me as an educator, a lawmaker, and a father and grandfather,” Cannady said. “We too often praise charter schools while demonizing public schools, and unfortunately, many people just don’t know what we’ve allowed charter schools to get away with, all on the taxpayer dole.”