Eric Feaver, President of the Montana Association of Public employees recently released an email and Facebook post decrying the lack of qualified teachers in Montana, and that in some cases foreign nationals are being hired as teachers.

“The fact is that we’re having trouble finding teachers everywhere in Montana,” said Feaver from his office in Helena. “In our rural areas it is especially acute. It is simply our failure to recruit and retail folks and frankly, that has a lot to do with how much we pay them. Our pay schedules, especially in our rural areas, are not robust or inviting, and if it weren’t for kids going back home to be teachers, I don’t know if we’d have teachers in a lot of places.”

Feaver said the state is using a special law that allows the hiring of teachers that are not fully qualified.

“We are using the rule under the Board of Education to employ persons under what’s called Emergency Authority and there are specific rules about that. Primarily, a school district has to try to find a qualified teacher. They must advertise as broadly as possible, but if they don’t find someone who is qualified to teach under Montana law, then they can hire someone who is not licensed and endorsed. When these people show up to teach, we expect them to be covered by the union’s collective bargaining agreement with that school.”

Feaver then said when all else fails, districts are finding teachers outside the borders of the U.S.

“A number of school districts are employing foreign nationals, and in particular from the Philippines to teach,” he said. “I’m sure these are wonderful people and they may be qualified in some respects, however, I’m hearing different stories about their ability to actually instruct in the classroom. Having said that, they will never earn tenure in a school district because they’re here on work visas.”

Feaver said there was another complication with using foreign nationals as teachers in rural Montana.

“In some cases, I think they’re just the wrong ethnicity, in particular in our Native American communities, when what we really need are Native American educators,” he said. “We are struggling with that issue, as well.”

Feaver said that the state of Washington has vastly improved its pay scale for teachers and many Montana graduates are choosing to relocate there simply foe economic reasons.

“In the large scope of things, we simply need to pay our teachers more,” he said.

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