Proximity Learning was founded in 2009 and allows schools experiencing teacher shortages to hire remote instructors. These teachers video conference in to classes, school functions, and even parent-teacher functions.
Bringing Staffing Services Online to Address Teacher Shortages
ESS, meanwhile, is based in Knoxville, Tenn., and focuses on in-person K-12 staffing. The acquisition marks a leap forward with digital capacity and the versatility to continue their work with both face-to-face and remote teaching.
“We see this as an opportunity to further provide an alternative solution for long-term substitute teacher staffing needs, allowing ESS to build upon the varied services our clients demand,” said ESS CEO Buddy Helton, in a statement. “By bringing PLI into the ESS family, we can instantly offer a full continuum of teacher staffing solutions across our customer base, while adding additional abilities around curriculum development and a solution for virtual charter schools. As the K-12 teacher and substitute shortage has continued to increase annually, the marriage of these two services will enable school districts to gain access to innovative solutions to ensure their students’ educations do not stop with a vacancy.”
“We’re thrilled to partner with ESS’s platform to bring together market-leading substitute staffing capabilities with an innovative virtual teacher offering for school districts that have difficulties filling a vacancy. We believe this is a real win for all K-12 schools,” said Proximity Learning CEO Evan Erdberg, in a statement.
Teacher Shortages Are Projected to Get Worse, Indicating Greater Need for Companies Like ESS and Proximity Learning
In recent years, teacher shortages have grown more acute in certain parts of the U.S. for a variety of reasons.
Some areas have seen huge booms in population. Odessa, Texas, which is located in Ector County, counted under 120,000 residents in 2010 at the time of the last census. Today, it has grown to an estimated 160,000. Ector County contracted with Proximity Learning last year, when they reported 246 positions across the district had gone unfilled.
At the same, fewer and fewer Americans are choosing to study to become teachers. According to 2015 U.S. Census Bureau analyzed by Zippia, college students pursuing a degree in education used to represent 21.6% of the entire undergraduate population in 1975. In 2015, they made up 7.6% of university students.
According to Zippia, this drastic reduction has occurred mostly among women. Female education majors made up nearly one-third (32.4%) of women in university in 1975. As a percentage, it has remained far more stable with men.
In a 2019 study, the Economic Policy Institute projects that the national demand for teachers will increase to well over 300,000 positions by 2025. The projected supply of American teachers, meanwhile, is projected to fall to below 150,000 during the same period.
As evidenced by the #RedforEd teacher movement that began with strikes in West Virginia in early 2018, many teachers are increasingly unhappy with working conditions.
Unless fortunes reverse, districts may soon find themselves contracting with companies like ESS.