The saying goes that everything is bigger and better in Texas, and population growth is certainly no exception. In fact, Census data shows that last year, 170,103 more residents moved into Texas from other states than left — averaging out to 466 new Texans each day. With this many new Texans, student enrollment also continues to increase, which only magnifies the issue of state-wide teacher shortages. Additionally, more than 20 percent of the new Texans are Hispanic which also increases the need for bilingual educators.

To help address the teacher shortage, the Texas Education Agency has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Education of Spain for the Texas-Spain Visiting International Teacher Program (VIT program).

The Texas-Spain VIT program allows participating school districts the opportunity to initiate cultural exchanges by recruiting qualified teachers from Spain. Additionally, the VIT program provides local education agencies with access to teachers with the Spanish language skills needed to provide second language instruction to students in Languages Other Than English (LOTE) programs or primary language instruction to limited English proficient (LEP) Spanish-speaking students. This program provides students, parents, and educators the opportunity to work with professionals from another country.

At least two Texas charter schools are participating in the VIT program, Legacy Preparatory Charter School (Legacy Prep) and International Leadership of Texas (ILTexas). For this upcoming school year, there were approximately 3,000 applicants from Spain and 1,200 teachers were selected for the VIT program. In Texas, 13 districts will host teachers from Spain and this includes about 50 teachers for ILTexas and 17 for Legacy Prep at their various campuses. At Legacy Prep, each of the selected teachers has earned a Master’s degree and three have doctorates. By coming to the U.S., these teachers will double their current salaries and Texas students will benefit by having highly qualified teachers who bring much to the table including subject matter expertise, teacher training, and an international background.

Another source of bilingual teachers that has been used by these districts is Puerto Rico (PR). Since they are already American citizens, there are no immigration requirements. Teachers certified in PR have the same rights as teachers who come to Texas certified from other states so they are granted a one year waiver from the state test requirements. This year, Legacy Prep and ILTexas went over as part of a six charter job fair group from the North Texas area to interview those ready to come to Texas for more money and a less expensive standard of living.

The U.S. Department of Education identified the 2015-16 teacher shortages for Texas by subject matter and there are shortages in these areas: Bilingual/English as a Second Language, Career and Technical Education, Computer Science, English as a Second Language, Mathematics, Science, and Special Education – Elementary and Secondary Levels. The VIT teachers coming to Texas will teach many of those hard to fill positions, especially in those bilingual areas.

While policy-makers and the education community continue to identify more permanent solutions to address teacher shortages, programs like VIT ensure that students still receive instruction from quality teachers. As a result of their superintendent and leadership’s commitment to excellent teachers and quality education, ILTexas and Legacy Prep students will receive the support and instruction they need to succeed.