United States Federal officials have labeled the Prince George’s County Public School System a “willful violator’’ of labor laws as they ordered the district to pay $5.9 million in back wages and penalties to more than 1,000 teachers, most of whom are educators from the Philippines.The decision by the United States Labor Department came after hundreds of Filipino teachers in Maryland County Schools were informed by the Prince George’s County school system officials last February that they are no longer requesting work-visa renewals for “non-critical workers,” such as elementary, music and language teachers, because of deep budget cuts.
This drastic move has put Filipino teachers in a position of uncertainty.
Those affected are many of Prince George's 800 Filipino teachers.
According to the US Labor Department officials, school officials actually recruited the foreign instructors for classes such as mathematics and science that were hard to fill, but then required that the educators cover thousands of dollars in expenses related to getting temporary work visas — expenses that should have been covered by the system.
Under the Labor Department ruling, the Prince George’s system owes $4.2 million in back wages to the foreign teachers and $1.7 million in penalties.
US-based newspapers quoted Labor Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Alexander as saying that federal officials imposed the penalties because school officials “refused to acknowledge” the problem with the back wages and to negotiate a settlement.
The school district is now struggling with a $155-million shortfall that has prompted cutbacks in sports and outdoor education programs, as well as hundreds of potential teacher layoffs.