Wonderschool Offers Working Moms Digital Platform to Solve Problems

Even with the addition of the latest Capitol Hill ping pong on paid parental leave policies during the recent Workforce Week, child care remains the single greatest concern for working mothers—and fathers.A new “Better Life Lab report examines how the length of paid family leave impacts four areas: infant and child health and wellbeing, maternal health and well-being, gender equality, and businesses and the economy.”Brigid Schulte, director of the Better Life Lab at New America and author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love, & Play When No One Has the Time,  writes in Slate, “There is compelling scientific evidence that the optimal length of time to ensure the best infant and child health and well-being is one year of paid leave at adequate wage replacement, split between parents.”[bctt tweet=“Child care remains the single greatest concern for #workingmothers—and fathers.” username=“takeleadwomen”]But without those systems universally in place, what are working moms to do?The answer for millions of American working moms is to find childcare in daycare centers, homes, pre-schools and family options for their children from birth to age 5.But the Center for American Progress found that many cities are “childcare deserts,” with only 8 percent of preschools it surveyed across eight states rated high-quality.“Over the past few decades, the dramatic increase in maternal labor force participation and dual-earner families has radically changed where and with whom young children spend much of their time. In 1970, 30 percent of mothers with a child under age 6 were employed; this number had grown to 64 percent by 2015. At the same time, the use of non-parental child care has become the norm. In 2011, more than 60 percent of children under age 5 regularly attended one or more non-parental child care arrangements,” according to the Center.“One-quarter of children under the age of 5 with employed mothers regularly attended center-based early childhood programs—including child care centers, preschools, and Head Start—while other children were cared for in their homes or caregivers’ homes by relatives, by neighbors, or in family child care. “To the working parent’s rescue, comes a new digital childcare dashboard of support for providers. Wonderschool, is expanding from 60 sites in California to 15 more cities across the U.S., according to Mia Pritts, head of early care and education at Wonderschool.[bctt tweet=“Much needed, a new digital childcare dashboard, comes to the rescue for #workingparents “ username=“takeleadwomen”]An expert in early childhood education for 18 years, Pritts is also the mother of a three-year-old and not only understands the business and education model needed, but the parental needs of working moms as well.Pritts was in the team of preschool pioneers who  started the groundbreaking campus preschool system at Google, Stanford, and Pixar. And she is now dedicated to helping directors open Wonderschool programs in their own homes, potentially doubling their incomes, but also problem solving for working mothers.“I have a unique perspective, says Pritts. “I understand the business operation side and I also have a parent perspective.”Founded by entrepreneurs Chris Bennett and Arrel Gray, Wonderschool collects 10 percent of monthly tuition fees to cover the costs of all of the software and services provided. The company recently raised $2 million for further expansion.“Our software platform lets teachers to manage their students, parents, and their program from one dashboard – somewhat like airbnb’s technology,” according to their press materials.“I see a need for more quality options for families. It is hard to find a program that fits every family’s needs,” Pritts says. “We work on the parent side and the provider side.Wondershool vets potential providers, and the overwhelming majority are female, and most are early childhood education experts and former teachers. More than 18 percent have masters degrees, Pritts says. Wonderschool assists with the licensing process, brings in mentors to create the daycare space in a home and offers coaching in marketing and business leadership.Providers can choose options of programs for children 0-5, with a small license covering up to five children, and a large license up to 12 children with up to two assistants.  More than 60 percent of those opening schools with Wonderschool had been out of the workforce, Pritts says, having taken time off to care for their own children.Many of these new small business owners were making less than $40,000 per year as preschool teachers, and can make between $50,000 to $100,000 as program providers, depending on the level of programs they provide and the area where they live, as tuition varies by market. Many providers are also new working moms coming back into the workforce, according to Pritts.Directors of Wondershool programs perhaps for the first time are managing their own businesses and an assistant. They learn how to hire and manage employees through training, templates and the building blocks of leadership, Pritts says.“We are working hard to professionalize the field. We provide so much support, resources and tools” through Wonderschool, Pritts says.For parents, Wonderschool allows them a chance to digitally explore and research programs nearby, schedule visits, enroll their children, review program philosophy and curriculum, and make payments.[bctt tweet=“New tools give #workingparents a chance to digitally explore their child’s school experience” username=“takeleadwomen”]Wonderschool also has a sliding scale on tuition, and it is up to the provider to set tuition rates. The provider does not pay Wonderschool until tuition is received.That flexible approach many parents may find helpful.A new report from Zillow “highlights another way middle-class families are struggling to get ahead as living expenses and commercial childcare costs soar and incomes remain flat,” according to RealityBizNews.“Commercial childcare can cost up to $21,000 a year, which only the most affluent households can afford. Some parents in families making the least may not earn enough at a full or part-time job to cover the cost of childcare, so having a stay-at-home parent often makes financial sense. But the families in the middle, often with two working parents making moderate incomes, can’t afford to send their kids to childcare and also can’t afford for one parent to stay home,” writes Mike Wheatley in RealityBizNews.“I feel personally as an individual we should do more as a society to support working parents,” Pritts says. “I also understand as a small business owner, it is hard to provide paid leave for parents. But we can bump up what we’re doing.”Without apology, Pritts adds, ”Our goal is to provide access to quality childcare for every kid in the world.”