Michelle Rhee, the former Washington, D.C., school superintendent who founded the education reform organization StudentsFirst, has urged Gov. Bill Haslam to veto HB3540. which calls for limits on the number of foreigners who can be employed by Tennessee charter schools.
“It is quality blind and will close the door on driven and talented educators who might otherwise help kids learn to read or become passionate about math and science,” writes Rhee, who now lives in Tennessee.
A previous article is HERE; Rhee’s letter to the governor is below.
The Honorable Bill Haslam
Governor of Tennessee
Nashville, TN 37243
RE: Requested veto of HB 3540
Dear. Governor Haslam:
I urge you to veto the legislation passed by the General Assembly that would arbitrarily cap the number of highly skilled legal immigrants who can work in public charter schools in Tennessee.
As you know, there is no more important in-school factor affecting how much our children learn than teacher quality. The work of our teachers is critical to how much progress our kids make, and we should be ensuring every student in Tennessee has the most effective teacher in front of them every day.
The legislation in question, HB 3540, will do the opposite. It is quality blind and will close the door on driven and talented educators who might otherwise help kids learn to read or become passionate about math and science.
University of Tennessee researchers have predicted a huge shortage of teachers in the state, particularly in STEM subjects, in the coming years. With that looming, we just can’t afford to turn motivated and talented teachers away by capping the percentage of foreign-born workers in our charter schools at a mere 3.5 percent of their workforce.
We’re not talking about unskilled illegal immigrants. We’re talking about H-1B visa holders. Such visas are specifically given to individuals because they have special skills that are hard to find and are badly needed in our communities.
As you rightly noted this week at Lipscomb University, history has shown that immigrants have brought many technological innovations to America. We need those folks in the great state of Tennessee, and we need them to teach our children – the ones who must be prepared today for the workforce of tomorrow.
Our public charter schools do a great job serving as models of innovation for all our schools, but they can only do that if they have the staff needed to create strong learning environments. Let’s not hamstring these public schools in an unfair way that hurts kids.