The Department of Labor (DOL) recently ordered the school system in Prince George’s County, Maryland, to pay $1.7 million in penalties and $4.2 million in back wages and penalties to more than 1,000 teachers recruited from foreign countries, many from the Philippines. School authorities had required the teachers to cover expenses for their H-1B work visas, in violation of the law.

Superintendent William R. Hite, Jr., plans to appeal the findings. He noted that the fines “may have a devastating impact on [the Prince George’s County school system] and its employees and the school system’s ability to continue to place a highly qualified teacher in every classroom.”

DOL spokeswoman Elizabeth Alexander said that the school system “refused to acknowledge” the problem sufficiently or to negotiate a settlement. County schools spokesperson Briant Coleman countered that school authorities had been unaware of the requirement and, when informed, “we corrected it immediately and paid the fees ever since.” Ms. Alexander said cases involving other school systems are pending.

An AFL-CIO report found that in 2008, Prince George’s schools obtained approval for 239 petitions for H-1B visas. Baltimore schools obtained 229 such approvals, the report found, and East Baton Rouge Parish schools in Louisiana obtained 205, Dallas schools 105 and New York City schools 96.