Thursday, August 09, 2007

A scam on the CNMI taxpayer

Editor's Note: This is already being misread. This is not directed at Koreans here legally operating businesses, paying taxes and contributing to this island. I appreciate these people. This is directed at families in Korea sending their kids alone to this island on tourist visas to flood CNMI schools for "free" English lessons.

I'm happy to be a liberal in the sense that I distrust and despise all the scams and influence of corporate America. I'm certainly no fan of the religious right, either. I find that title of liberal a lot more appealing than that of conservative, despite the demonization of that word over the years. I do, however, loath the politically correct, watch what you say, be hypersensitive to all, branch of liberalism. By definition, conservative means against change, and the world I live in is way too fucked up not to want change.

Well, here is one thing I suppose I'm not so liberal about, and it probably will cost me money for saying so. There is a scam going on in this island right now. Yeah, yeah, one of the many. This one is kind of new.


South Korea has long been under the spell of English mania. There are English tutor schools, called hagwons, about every ten feet in Seoul -- along with coffee shops, karaoke rooms and computer rooms. I mean this pretty literally. Rick Vaughn is there right now and can attest to that fact. I worked at two well known hagwons before moving to Saipan and enjoyed my fun, yet going nowhere, jobs there. These hagwons are English conversation schools that all age groups attend, usually early in the morning or in the evening after work, and they are more businesses than schools. Some of the teachers at these schools are good, but most have no qualifications at all, are clueless about teaching and are there for cheap beer, Asian girls, to pay down college debt or simply just to travel. In order to practice real world conversation with, in their usual preference, "white Americans," preferably young and female, but definitely young, Koreans flock to these schools, and pay $100 to $200 per month for this talking privilege. I had a British friend/co-worker who was once instructed to teach English with an American accent.

Right now, the CNMI public schools are being flooded with Korean students. I don't believe they have family or businesses here. They are here to graduate an American high school, which gives them a better chance to get into an American college. I talked to someone who works at immigration and they said immigration is aware of this and they are looking into it.
Two years ago, given my Korean experience, I attempted to start a Korean Club at SSHS. The mere 20 Korean kids in the entire school had some kind of rift in their community, so it never happened. That community has grown enormously since then, and it seems to have exploded this year. Right now I have 20 Korean students in my class alone. You will hear more Korean spoken than Chamorro or Carolinian on our campus. Koreans are obsessed with getting an American education. Many pregnant Korean women fly to the states, or here or Guam to get American citizenship and get their male child out of required Korean military service, which is a cruel joke. The South Korean government pulls these young men out of college after their sophomore year in college to mostly stand around some military base and do little as soldiers. They give them free cigarettes, which leads to an unhealthy addiction that is hard to break. These young men don't get to start their real adult lives with their chosen career until age 26 or later, and women shy away from men in their early 20s because they'll hardly get to see them for years. I always felt bad for these men about this scenario.

I found out today that the school system here is not allowed to ask the registering student about their immigration status. The student could be here illegally, or on a tourist visa, and PSS can't ask or find out. This is according to a counselor I talked with about this issue today. I think it is likely young school aged Koreans are coming in on tourist visas and just enrolling in the schools since these students usually make a trip to Seoul after a few months and start the CNMI Visa process again. The parents are seldom, if ever, actually living here. They are paying for a home stay program. Many of these students have little to no English ability. The high school language arts classes are wildly packed, and frankly, Korean families on this island are running a home stay program for a great profit, and they are shifting the education burden on the already overburdened and underfunded Public School System. I consider it a scam.

This English education as I see it is hardly in the interest of the Korean student. The English classes aren't ESL classes. I don't teach the class like I'm teaching a bunch of Koreans who hardly know the language, and to do so is unfair to the other 25 local kids who need me to bring them up to speed on skills they are already lacking. I have more than one student who doesn't know word one of English, has no idea what I'm saying and just looks at the sky for 80 minutes. He was ushered in like cattle by some Korean guy who announced that he's a junior, but he's really bad at English, so he's in freshmen English, as if I'm teaching at a hagwon again. There really isn't that much I could do for this person even if he was the only student I had, which he decidedly is not. In Korea, this type of student would work with a Korean bilingual teacher to bring them up to a level to be ready for a foreign teacher and more advanced English. PSS isn't about to do this.

What's happening is a scam that rips off the CNMI taxpayers. It's not good for the Korean students. It's not good for the local students. It's not good for the teachers. It's only good for Korean families getting paid a lot of money to look out for some Korean kid shipped off to a strange place for "free" English lessons on the backs of the CNMI taxpayer.

31 comments:

EJ said...

whatever

EJ said...

Hurt my feeling

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

Your parents are investors and paid for you to go to private school. How does this hurt your feelings?

This isn't an issue of poor undocumented immigrants sending their kids to public schools in the country where they grew up, this is an issue of parents who can afford to send their kids overseas, not paying taxes, and getting free educations, with no benefit to the CNMI, since the kids are going to go straight back to Korea after they graduate.

Jeff said...

This isn't about people like you with families with legitimate businesses here who pay taxes, E.J. It's about kids dropped off here alone without real visas for free english in an already crowded classroom.

kim Jung ill said...

Let the koreans stay and contribute to the economy.

Jeff said...

Editor's Note: This is already being misread. This is not directed at Koreans here legally operating businesses, paying taxes and contributing to this island. I appreciate these people. This is directed at families in Korea sending their kids alone to this island on tourist visas to flood CNMI schools for "free" English lessons.

SteeleOnSaipan said...

Jeff, interesting perspective on this from a teacher/school population standpoint. One of my neighbors is one of the "tan trio" of Korean mom-babes that walks the pathway everyday around 11am-12pm (sorry, my desk has a view). She's here with the kids, her husband is working in Korea. She's here on a "legal" work contract though her suntan shows she definitely doesn't have a day-job. Her hubby has a brother w/ a business here and I'll assume that he's the ghost-employer. If a businessman can show $25k or whatever in gross, he can bring all the family here that he wants w/ all of our legal loopholes and uninforced policies. I've also had two, female 3-month neighbors in the past year, both arrived pregnant and left after three months w/ a little U.S. citizen. Yet "Why Not" Reyes doesn't want the CNMI to be a jump-zone for U.S. citizens....."why not" contradict reality more often Senator?
EJ, you shouldn't take offense to comments about this, your family has been contributing to this economy as long as I've been here. Rather, you should be offended that many Koreans without long-term interest in the CNMI continue to exploit the island for whatever they can get their hands on at little or no charge.
Come watch EJ, myself and our team dominate the Hyatt v-ball tourney on the 25th!

Lewie said...

So that's who those ladies are. For a while I was thinking about changing my run routine to just before lunch on Beach Rd. I haven't seen them out lately.

bradinthesand said...

Jeff, why do you hate Koreans? Is it because they have more hair than you?

Jeff said...

Most everyone has more hair than me.

bradinthesand said...

including hair-ison ford...

bradinthesand said...

...but not woody hairless-on.

Bruce A. Bateman said...

Edit the piece, cut it to 400 words and send it to the Letters to the Editor page, but wait a couple of weeks until after the snarling whip and chair wielders form our colonial master have hied back out of town in their first class jet seats to join their handlers in Washington.

This is an issue that should be addressed if it has gone large-scale, Jeff.

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

I think those ladies are EJ's students. Her name is "Ashley."

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

http://jetapplicant.blogspot.com/2007/08/thanks-for-noticing-me.html

Brad said...

Jeff, I agree with Bruce...edit it and send it to the newspaper. My wife is Korean, my kids will be Korean-American, I love Korea and have many many Korean friends. BUT that doesn't mean it's okay for people (Koreans/Americans/or anyone) to just cheat the system in a such blatant way. And I agree, that kid you mentioned who can't speak English needs a true ESL program and one-o-one instruction....not the PSS. The parents are idiots if they think they're doing their son a favor.

Now, true ESL homestay programs are a different thing entirely, IMHO. I've worked with kids before and after they did such programs and I've seen the improvement in their English skills. Learning a second language isn't easy and it takes some personalized instruction and tailored study programs.

The PSS should make some adjustments to get these kids in the proper ESL programs they NEED. It's not fair to the school or the students in question to just throw them into the PSS in a "Sink or swim" mentality.

That being said, if the child already has good English skills and has paid all the same tuition fees (including equivalent taxes) then they should be allowed in the PSS so they can gain the benefit of the social skills the PSS system gives kids.

I helped our friend Dong-hee (Kurt) apply to my university in America. I'm happy he was able to attend and see the 'real America' (a.k.a. Iowa). However, he had to pay international tuition rates which was perfectly fair. I explained to him that since his parents hadn't paid Iowa taxes, he had to pay higher tuition to offset the difference. He was okay with that and had a great year long experience of American university life. That's what Saipan should be doing, if they have sufficient English skills to participate in the classes.

Sorry for such a long-winded reply. I've got issues with this myself.

Brad said...

please forgive all my typing mistakes....I was typing fast and furiously. ;-)

Brad said...

Oh, and one other thing. I broke my own rule...Personally, I don't like the term "Korean-American". In my mind, if you're American, you're American. If "Korean-American" meant dual-citizenship I could understand it but that's not usually the case.

I have never referred to myself as Dutch-German-Irish-English-American even though I have blood from all those countries pumping in veins.

The term "Korean-American" just tends to create a division and the whole point of being American is,IMHO, a unifying factor. But if others like it, they're welcome to use it.

NOTE TO JEFF: I apologize for hijacking your thread.

We now return to our regularly scheduled debate.

Jeff said...

They aren't paying any tuition. They aren't paying any taxes. They are cheating the system. They are nice people, and generally pleasant students. I have nothing against them. Most are trying hard and want to learn, which is all I ask of any student. But they don't pay taxes here, and that is one factor in the 33 to 1 student to teacher ratio. They might be doing other things homestay wise, I don't know, but PSS high schools aren't free hagwons, and they seem to think they are.

Brad said...

Then the Saipan PSS needs to set up some kind of tiered tuition system, in order to save itself from being swamped by a new kind of 'korean wave'.

For example:
$X for citizens of the CNMI.
$X times 2 for U.S. citizens (whose Federal taxes help pay for things in the Saipan PSS.
$x times 3 for international students. Seems like common sense to me. But you know the myth about common sense, right? It's not actually common.

I mean, come on...the Saipan PSS is barely getting by on the funds they have, right? This could be a very useful way to help pay for more teachers...[like myself ;-)].

I just talked to my wife about this and she agreed. Korean parents usually have no problem paying, and paying well, for their kids' education. You saw it...they pay big money to send their kids to English hagwans, science hagwans, math hagwans. I don't think they'd object to paying a tuition like that...especially if it meant the quality of the schools or teacher-student ratio would be improved by pumping that extra cash into the PSS. Right now, if they're taking advantage of the system...I think a large part of it is because the Saipan PSS is making it so easy. TOO easy.

Jeff said...

public education is free. There is no tuition. I think immigration hasn't caught up with this. There are a lot of things left unenforced here.

Brad said...

public education is paid for by tax dollars. in the absence of those tax dollars, a tuition should be collected.

Brad said...

Okay, I don't mean to imply that poor people (who might not be paying any taxes) should be charged a tuition. I'm speaking of foreign students...international students. These are kids whose parents believe they've found a golden 'back door' to the American education.

It's funny because after 5 years of living here and teaching kids of all ages...when my as-of-yet-unborn kids are old enough, I'd rather they go through the Korean PSS. Korean students learn great study skills and at least the grade school and middle school kids don't get traumatized by it.

Juanita said...

During the TT days, I was not able to attend the public high school for part of the school year because it was full. We were also told that prioriety was given to TT citizens (I am a U.S. citizen). The alternative was to pay for private school which I knew my parents could not afford -- so I dropped out.

I eventually went back and was able graduate a year early -- I was afraid I would have to drop out again the following year if they were full.

Anyway, I have to agree with Jeff. PSS is cutting back on teachers and programs -- what these guys are doing is not fair to everyone involved.

If their parents can afford to send the kids back and forth every few months then why don't they have them enter legally and pay for private school -- whatever happened to the student visa thing we have? Is that only for college students?

Jeff said...

I know the private schools complain they can't enter legally. Korean ESL would and should do much better than it is here. They don't always leave. It only matters if they get caught. If they overstay and leave, not much happens.

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

Just a few things:

1. All CNMI citizens are US citizens, just like the citizens of all 50 states are US citizens.

2. This is an issue of student privacy, so there is really nothing that can be done on the school level. This is an immigration issue.

A few years back there was a move to kick all the illegal Mexicans out of California schools, which was eventually killed based on 4th (?) amendment rights.

Federalization will solve this problem by strengthening visa requirements.

Bruce A. Bateman said...

4. Federalization didn't, and hasn't, stopped the very same problem from occuring in the US as your referrence to Cal shows very clearly. Just how, praytell, will the gmen become so perfect in the execution of their jobs that they will be able to halt this practice from 10,000 miles away? (Remember we also have an obligation to abide by the US Constitution and 4th? Ammendent rights).

Otherwise I am more or less in agreement with you, Angelo. (A bit of a rarity on this kind of issue). (:-))

The schools CAN simply call local immigration authorities and ask that they be deported. The schools could call the parents and tell them "nice try, but you'll have to come and get your kid now, we're not admitting him to class any longer" The schools are not helpless in this matter.

Brad said...

Angelo, I'm not sure if your comment was somehow spurred by something I said. -->"1. All CNMI citizens are US citizens, just like the citizens of all 50 states are US citizens."

If it was a result of something I wrote...I think I was misunderstood. I know all CNMI citizens are US citizens. BUT my understanding, which is admittedly VERY limited on the specifics, tells me that mainlanders are tier two citizens of the CNMI. We can't own land, I'm not sure if we can run for office...etc. So, I meant the native people of the CNMI should be given first priority and the truly free education they deserve. Mainland U.S. citizens should be given a somewhat similar deal but mainly I simply believe international students (whether they are from Korea, Japan, Germany, or wherever)who are being shipped into the country for 'free PSS education' could and should be charged some kind of educational tuition to help pay for the school system they are using.

Again, I'm not really sure but don't foreign exchange students from France, Germany, etc. pay some kind of school admission fee/tuition when they attend high school in the States?

It would be different if the Saipan PSS was awash in cash. But, with teachers being let go and all the other problems I've heard teachers talking about....it seems like the government or school system needs to change the situation for the better.

And I will admit, I know the least of anyone on this blog about Saipan's issues...I'm just speaking as someone who is a teacher and understands that schools are not run on kind wishes. They need money to operate, sad though that may be.

Silly Socrates said...

Then, what do you think of Koreans?

Silly Socrates said...

Oh, and I should also ask what you think of Greeks like me.

bradinthesand said...

Jeff was wrestler so I think he likes Greeks...