The Louisiana Department of Education has confirmed 72 foreign teachers could be stopped from teaching in the state as a result of President Donald Trump’s Monday proclamation suspending certain foreign workers from entering the United States through the end of the year. 

That figure includes 22 French teachers who are set to work in Orleans Parish. 

Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans is one of several language immersion schools of the city schools that could be affected. The school works with the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL) to hire teachers in the U.S. on J-1 visas, used for educational purposes by teachers, students and others. 

The ban would only affect new teachers coming over. Teachers in their second or third year of the visa most commonly used by Lycée can remain. It’s unclear how many of the 22 new teachers are slated to teach at Lycée versus other city school language programs. 

Trump has cast the proclamation, which bans J visas as well as other types, as a jobs protection decision for U.S. workers amid high unemployment caused by the COVID-19 crisis, which has stalled the country’s economy and life as Americans know it. The move comes as the European Union is considering banning American travelers.

Lycée and other immersion schools rely on foreign teachers not solely for language instruction but for many subjects taught at the school. Lycée follows French national curriculum and is accredited by the French Ministry of Education. Most of the school day is taught in French.

A Washington Post article explained workers who are already here will not have to leave. Many J-1 teachers stay for two years, and sometimes three. As for new, incoming teachers, at a Monday meeting, Lycée CEO Marina Schoen said she expected new teachers to receive waivers allowing them to teach in spite of the ban. 

“We have received information from the Louisiana department of education board language supervisor that J-1 teachers can go to the U.S. Embassy in Paris and obtain their visa,” Schoen said Monday. “They will be receiving at the end of June a waiver to the presidential proclamation.”

Asked for comment, a spokesman for the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana — a state agency that helps to coordinate the process of bringing Lycée teachers into the country — did not offer the same level of confidence that waivers would be forthcoming.

“Following the release yesterday of the President’s proclamation, CODOFIL is working with local, state, national, and international partners to assess its impact on French immersion schools across the state,” CODOFIL Communications Director Matt Mick wrote in an email Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Mick wrote that “CODOFIL and its partners are continuing to seek an exemption from the proclamation for these teachers.”

An online petition created by Télé-Louisiane, a local production company that focuses on Louisiana’s French and Creole culture, is hoping to raise awareness around the foreign teachers who could be kept from entering the country and teaching in schools across the state.

“We view the immersion schools as so critical to not only keeping the language and culture alive but reinvigorating Louisiana’s economic culture,” Télé-Louisiane CEO Will McGrew said in an interview Wednesday. 

“We saw this decision on Monday and immediately, our concern is it might affect the immersion schools,” he said, noting his group is concerned those spots may not be able to be filled by in-state teachers. 

Louisiana Department of Education spokesman Ted Beasley said the state is working with CODOFIL too. 

Beasley did not immediately respond to a request to confirm Schoen’s statement regarding waivers.  

In the 2012-2013 school year Lycee had 18 French exchange teachers through CODOFIL’s program. 

Schoen said the school and its partners are paying close attention to Trump’s next moves. 

“We are ready with LDOE, CODOFIL, etcetera, to make sure we are being heard by U.S. Representatives and legislators to make sure they support us in this going forward.”

Marta Jewson

Marta Jewson covers education in New Orleans for The Lens. She began her reporting career covering charter schools for The Lens and helped found the hyperlocal news site Mid-City Messenger. Jewson returned...