When we think about the pillars of a well-functioning school, we often think about teachers, students and administrators. But another group spends between 6-12 months with a student over their lifetime in schools and often go completely unnoticed: substitute teachers. These dedicated individuals play a critical role in maintaining continuity while teachers navigate unexpected illness, professional development days, or extended family leave. They are asked to be among the most flexible and adaptable staff in a school district, reporting to unfamiliar buildings often with little to no support or respect.
Last school year, almost 3 out of 4 public schools reported higher rates of chronic teacher absenteeism (missing 10 or more days of work), according to the U.S. Department of Education. At the same time, 77% of schools reported having more difficulty finding substitutes, with 61% saying it was “much more difficult” than it had been before the COVID-19 pandemic. These shortages often spark a variety of challenges affecting school culture, operations and staff morale.
Mike Teng experienced these problems firsthand during his five-year tenure as Director of Technology at Rocketship Schools. In 2015, Mike co-founded Swing Education with high school classmates Asha Visweswaran and Oz Feng, capitalizing on their engineering backgrounds to build a distinct marketplace technology focused on substitute teachers.
Over the past seven years, Swing has established itself as the leading consumer-grade provider addressing this increasingly widespread problem, fulfilling overwhelming demand from under-resourced school systems in desperate need of solutions. First-time subs are getting into the classroom five weeks faster. They are paid faster and more competitively with added transparency into the experience they can expect when they arrive at a school. The result? Swing schools are improving fill rates by more than 15 percentage points.
Reach Capital is delighted to lead, alongside Apax Partners, Swing’s $38 million Series C round as the team expands its worker-centered vision into new territories and products, including state-level teacher certification partnerships. Reach has spent years exploring ways technology can build teacher capacity, enhance the human connection, and create more equitable access to well-prepared educators. This team is poised to impact each of these areas and the $20-billion opportunity they represent.
Swing’s services could not be more critical at a time when superintendents are reporting as subs, emergency licenses are being issued, and four-day weeks are being put in place. One governor went so far as to summon the National Guard, placing military lab technicians into classrooms to cover the gap. Making matters worse, this problem disproportionately affects low-income families. Data from California shows that, on average, the schools with the most high-needs students filled about 42% of their teacher absences with substitutes. Even schools with the fewest high-needs students found subs for only 63% of teacher absences.
Beyond traditional matchmaking, Swing’s vertical labor marketplace model unlocks new talent pools and manages credentialing, classification, payments, training, and important state regulatory requirements. Rather than replicate the staffing agency model of the past, the Swing team has invested in the technical infrastructure required to develop a pure marketplace that minimizes effort for districts, reduces friction, and rewards teacher reliability while introducing powerful network effects.
The Swing team possesses unique domain experience and technical capability required to scale a labor marketplace that breaks down barriers between schools and the communities they serve to ensure that learning never stops for students. We couldn’t be more pleased to support the Swing team in their next chapter! If you want to be part of the journey, check out their open roles here.