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"SUBCONTRACTING" and Teaching Word-Wide

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By Kevin Stoda, subcontracted teacher now in the Middle East


"Subcontracting refers to the process of entering a contractual agreement with an outside person or company to perform a certain amount of work. The out-side person or company in this arrangement is known as a subcontractor, but may also be called a free-lance employee, independent contractor, or vendor."

  In the past year I have written two articles on teaching in foreign lands.   Both articles included a cursory discussion of the growing trend globally to subcontract for teachers --rather than for a school, college or educational institution to to hire teachers directly for itself. The first article I wrote was entitled, "Comparison of Two Large Foreign English Teacher and Internationalization Projects in East Asia". and follow-up was   "(Part 2) Two Large Scale English Teacher Exchange Programs Compared: in Japan (JET) & Taiwan (FET). For my first 22 years as a teacher, I personally never worked as a subcontractor for the position (or the positions) where I taught, e.g. at elementary or secondary schools, nor at colleges, businesses, or at language schools .   However, since 2006, I have thrice worked for one educational institution while being paid for my employment from a third party (the contractor).   This has occurred in Taiwan, Kuwait, and in Germany.   It could occur the next time I go and teach in the states, too.    This trend in outsourcing education and educators is all part of the global effort to obtain throw-away employees in the local and international job markets.   It is representative of some of the most despicable forms of free market capitalism--all of  which have been promoted over recent decades in the name of  privatization and efficiency. On the other hand, there are some short term benefits to outsourcing--which keep it perpetuated. Namely, most obviously, money and costs are kept down for the short term, i.e. in terms of old-school free-market accounting models. This trend in outsourcing at the local, state, and international levels makes teaching jobs less secure--and less enjoyable--in many ways.   Teachers and educational institutions world-wide need to take time and rethink this concept of limitless-outsourcing for educational efforts, especially when and where it is done practically solely in the name of saving money or for the breaking of unions (however dysfunctional some unions may be). 


When I was a child growing up in the state of Kansas 4 decades ago, public schools undertook very little subcontracting--even in the area of support services.   I recall the janitors being the one's who helped fill the coke machines in our hallways, for example. (The janitors knew us at a personal level and we knew them.) All those who did work for the school district were contracted directly with the district. Our food in the cafeteria was wonderful and wonderfully nutritious.   All the staff in the cafeteria were employed through the school district,too.   By the 1990s many school districts had outsourced--not-only-school cafeterias but janitorial services as well. Now, some districts are outsourcing bus-drivers to an ever greater degree. Williamsport , Pennsylvania , for example, has undergone such a process.

It was observed that if the Williamsport district would be successful in subcontracting the positions, some   forty "union colleagues [would] face the reality of losing their jobs, or having their wages and benefits eliminated by a private for-profit company."  One potentially affected worker, Deborah Monds, stated that already her husband had lost his job, so she really needed her health care benefits from the school job. "If they cut my benefits, I would have to leave my job and find another that would give me benefits, if that is even possible."

The women, Deborah Monds, "who has been driving a school bus in Williamsport for 26 years, says she followed in her father's footsteps, taking over his bus route when he retired after 50 years of service. Her brother has been driving a school bus for 31 years, and another brother has also worked as a district bus driver. Her family has provided more than 115 years of service to the district."

She added, "I love being with the kids. I was not fortunate enough to have children, but for the few hours each day that I have them on board, I get to treat them as if they are my own."

In other words, "for support professionals like Monds, the subcontracting of jobs is a constant worry and concern. Those hit hardest include cafeteria workers, bus drivers and custodians and maintenance workers. In the past year, there seems to have been a resurgence of subcontracting threats."

The Illinois Education Association has claimed: "One of the greatest issues facing ESPs [education Support Professionals] today is privatization. A wide variety of companies and corporations are attempting to take over virtually all of the work traditionally performed by school district employees, from teaching to providing student transportation to cooking meals to cleaning and maintaining school buildings and grounds, and more. The National Education Association is strongly opposed to privatization because of the threat it poses to the quality of education, the accountability of public schools to the communities they serve and to the well being of children in school."

According to one website, in 2007, the Illinois Education Association achieved a major victory in providing job protection for all ESP employees."

However, as in neighboring Indiana, Ohio, and Wisconsin these days, the ESP worker's sense of security is often low.

In Thailand, another Asian country where outsourcing has become rampant in recent decades for educators, the U.S. A.I.D. had long-ago put out a paper which had clearly discouraged the practice of outsourcing in its rural projects.  
That is, by the 1980s, there had already been too many detrimental developments in US AID projects "through outsourcing" in Thailand and East Asia--i.e. even at the very early stages of the Reagan and Thatcher era.  

Nonetheless, globally the rise in subcontracted positions has increased decade by decade--even in U.S.AID sponsored programs as well as in government --run educational projects across the continents. In Japan, where I previously taught (1992-1994) as an Assistant Language Teacher [ALT] for one of the prefectural boards of education   (alongside 20-plus unionized Japanese colleagues) at three rural high schools in team-teaching situations, too many of the 50 prefectural boards of education in the country have been either outsourcing their language teaching aids [ALT positions] or have been considering doing so.

At the same time, school districts from across the U.S. are already busy outsourcing teaching jobs to educators from the Philippines, Latin America, China and elsewhere. Some are invited to teach in the USA for a limited time.   Others are looking to come and work for longer periods. (I have seen such advertisements recruiting foreign teachers while living in both Latin America and Asia.) At the same time, tenure rights for U.S. teachers are being undercut already, especially in 2012.  

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KEVIN STODA-has been blessed to have either traveled in or worked in nearly 100 countries on five continents over the past two and a half decades.--He sees himself as a peace educator and have been-- a promoter of good economic and social development--making-him an enemy of my homelands humongous DEFENSE SPENDING and its focus on using weapons to try and solve global (more...)

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