The Struggle of Teacher Unemployment
Vassar Greene, 40, began his education career teaching elementary school in Newark in 1998, was promoted assistant principal at Irvington High School in 2005 and enjoyed his job. But as schools throughout the country responded to the economic crisis with budget cuts, Greene, non-tenured, lost his position.
From 2007-2008, Greene stayed home with his two sons but as Greene’s unemployment extended, his life at home grew strained. Eventually, the economic and emotional stress of unemployment contributed to Greene’s divorce, he admits.
Greene, who’s quite the gentle giant at 6 feet 7 in comparison to his fifth grade students, has occupied room 16 at Louverture since he was re-hired to teach fifth grade math, science, and writing last November. Although, today, he serves in a different capacity as instructional tutor in those content areas, Greene receives the same benefits as a classroom teacher.
“I’ve just been kind of on an unemployment rollercoaster,” Greene laughs He’s glad to be off the ride. “I was not too proud to take a lower-paying job even if it meant accepting a 200-mile commute round trip from his southern New Jersey home of Sicklerville to Louverture up north in East Orange; there were no job prospects in his hometown.
Greene knows he’s fortunate to be working and will soon celebrate his second year at Louverture. Unemployment data as of September 2013 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the unemployment rate for black men over 20 remains more than twice as high, at 14 percent, as for white men the same age at 6.1. #