H-1B Question: What Is the Real Demand for High School Turkish Teachers?

By David North on February 29, 2012

The H-1B program damages America in a number of ways, directly and indirectly, discouraging young American from following high-tech careers and shunting aside skilled U.S. citizens and green-card holders because of their "advanced age", i.e., anything over 35.

This has been widely reported by many, including my CIS colleague John Miano, and Professor Norm Matloff at UC/Davis.

In addition to the broad-stroke problems that these gentlemen discuss learnedly, there is another, almost hidden (and smaller) damage being inflicted on American taxpayers by the totally artificial – totally needless – importation of high school teachers of the Turkish language.

It is a perfect example of a successful effort to manipulate the nation's immigration policy – and tax funds – to help one's cronies.

We now have up-to-date information of the extent of this phenomenon.

You may think that there are no regular public high school classes in the Turkish language, and you are probably right.

But what is not generally realized is that many of the charter high schools in America, funded about 99 percent by local taxpayers, are in the hands of a largely Turkish movement, the Gulen Schools, and they use taxpayer funds and the H-1B program to bring into the U.S. fellow Turks to teach that language in these charter schools. (No one knows how many of these new arrivals actually teach Turkish, nor how many students are in these classes, nor what pressures were brought to bear to get students to enroll. The vast majority of the Gulen charter high school students are not ethnic Turks.)

That there is no genuine public demand for instruction in that language at that level – college is different – does not seem to matter. Local tax funds are used to pay the H-1B fees – and the salaries – for these teachers, and the federal immigration laws are used to make possible the entry of the same teachers.

I have nothing against tax-supported language instruction in high school nor against Turkey nor Turks, but the Turkish Teacher Recruitment Scheme is a flagrant example of how local tax moneys should not be spent, and how the immigration laws should not be used. The scheme seems to allow the legal migration of persons who could not possibly come to the U.S. as workers otherwise – presumably friends of the Gulen administrators – and to do so largely at taxpayer expense. (More on the Gulen movement later.)

All this comes to mind because a newly-energized database program is now available to show (among other things) how many taxpayer-supported teachers of Turkish have been imported via the H-1B program in recent years. The program, called h1bistro, shows all the H-1B Labor Condition Applications filed with the U.S. Department of Labor in recent years, and is searchable by job title, employer zip code, state of employment, and other variables. Something like 99.9 percent of it deals with skills other than the teaching of Turkish.

What we learn from h1bistro is that the number of H-1B applications for high school teachers of Turkish was, totally understandably, at a level of zero in fiscal years 2003, 2004, and 2005. Since then they have soared to 91 in 2009 and have since dropped to 36 in 2011.

The table shows the total number of certifications granted by the Department of Labor to high school teachers of the Turkish language in recent years

DoL, H-1B, and the Nonexistent Demand for High School Turkish Classes
Fiscal Year
High School Turkish Teacher Jobs Certified by Dept. of Labor
Maximum Number of H-1B extensions possible for Teachers of Turkish*
Minimum Number of Newly Certified H-1B Jobs for Teachers of Turkish**
* These are the highest possible numbers of extensions of H-1B status for the year. An H-1B certification is good for three years, and may be extended thereafter.

** These numbers are determined by subtracting numbers in column 3, from column 2. Just as the numbers in column 3 are the highest possible, those in column 4 are the lowest possible.

Data Source: U.S. Department of Labor data on H-1B certifications, as shown in http://h1bistro.com. All certifications were for charter schools; none were for public high schools.

Clearly, were there a continuing, legitimate demand for such high school teachers the numbers in the table would be fairly steady over the years, and would include no zeroes. I am not sure why the totals fell in 2011, but I hope it is a start of a trend.

What is intriguing is that through these years there has not been much H-1B employer interest, other than that of the charter schools, in people whose occupations include the word "Turkish". That's the key word I used with the h1bistro program.

In 2006 Harvard University was the only entry in the non-high-school-teacher-of-Turkish listings; it wanted a Turkish language instructor, and that sounds legitimate. In 2007 and 2008 it was just high school teachers. In 2009 there were two requests for people knowing about business in Turkey, and 91 filings for the high school teachers of the language. In 2010 there was one filing from the Turkish-American Business Forum in New York, and 74 for teachers. And in the next, and final year, 2011, there were requests for two equities salesmen, two Middle Eastern researchers, and 36 high school teachers of the language.

So, in the years 2006-2011, there were eight requests for Turkish specialists who were not charter high school teachers, and a total of 241 for those who were. Interesting ratio.

As the table indicates, the charter schools placed orders for 241 Turkish teachers, and that translates into a charter school Turkish-teacher population ranging from 201 to 241, depending on the rate in recent years that these schools have extended the visas of high school teachers of Turkish admitted earlier. (That fact cannot be teased out of the data base just mentioned.)

Let's assume that the smaller group, that of 201 teachers, is still here and still teaching, and that each has six Turkish classes a day, and that there are, say, 25 students in each class, plausible numbers for teachers in not-too-crowded schools. (So, 201 x 6 x 25 = 30,150.)

That would mean that 30,150 American teenagers were studying Turkish nationwide every day that the schools are open. Do you believe that? I do not.

For more on the use of the H-1B program, generally, in K-12 education, see the CIS backgrounder on the subject; that report also contains some information on the Gulen Schools.

The Gulen movement, which apparently has a Muslim religious bent in Turkey, is said to be more secular in this nation; its schools have various names (such as the Cosmos Foundation in Texas and the Pelican Educational Foundation in Louisiana). Its main stated emphasis is on providing high-quality math and scientific instruction. For more on the Gulen movement see its own website, and for a more critical look, this news article in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Gulen movement brings large numbers of teachers from Turkey to teach subjects other than Turkish to the charter school students, often, according to the Inquirer article, displacing resident teachers – usually native English-speakers – in the process. Since the data on these (non-language) teachers does not reflect their nationality, the number of such imports cannot be counted.

The Gulen schools are particularly active in Texas, where my sense is that the concept of government-run public schools is not terribly well-supported. According to the data source cited above, an absolute majority of the 241 requests for teachers of Turkish – a total of 125 – were placed in Texas, mostly by the Houston-based Cosmos Foundation, a major operator of charter schools.

If, in fact, these tax-supported H-1B teachers actually teach Turkish to the teenagers, there will be an interesting young American population who will speak Turkish . . . with a Texas accent.