McKee Administration Supports Early Childhood Educators Through Step Up to Child Care WAGE$

Governor Dan McKee and the Rhode Island Department of Human Services, in partnership with the Rhode Island Association for the Education of Young Children, today announced the Step Up to Child Care WAGE$® Program (WAGE$) is now available as a pilot to child care professionals in Rhode Island. Step Up to WAGE$ provides education-based salary supplements to teachers, directors, and family child care providers working with young children.

“Our focus remains providing the best education possible for each and every Rhode Islander, and it is important that we provide early childhood professionals with the resources to ensure our youngest learners are prepared to receive a 21st century education,” said Governor Dan McKee. “This pilot program will ensure Rhode Island continues to have a top-tier education program starting at the earliest ages.”

“This is an exciting opportunity to continue to grow the child care profession and the skills of those providing these critical services,” said Department of Human Services Acting Director Kimberly Merolla-Brito. “The fact that Rhode Island has kicked off this innovative pilot is a testament to our state’s dedication to further growing and educating those committed to this career path and to shaping the minds of our youngest learners.”

Any child care educator earning at or below the income cap of $23 per hour may be eligible to participate. The recipient must work with children in an early childhood setting at least 10 hours per week in a DHS-licensed child care program participating in CCAP/Brightstars in Rhode Island and must have a level of education appearing on the WAGE$ supplement scale.

Lisa Hildebrand, executive director of the Rhode Island Association for the Education of Young Children (RIAEYC), the Rhode Island based non-profit that manages the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood Scholarship Program and now the Step Up to WAGE$ Pilot for the state, said: “We are thrilled to pilot this program for the state to recognize early childhood educators who use their experience and education to improve the quality of the learning environment for children. High-quality early care and education provides a healthy environment and a wide range of enriching experiences that are so important for the growth and development of young children.”

Created by Child Care Services Association in North Carolina, the Child Care WAGE$ Program is an evidence-informed, outcome-driven initiative designed to increase the education and retention of the early care and education workforce through increased compensation. Education-based salary supplements tied to the successful completion of commitment periods in the same child care program result in a more stable, better-educated workforce. Rhode Island’s Early Childhood Care and Education Strategic Plan is focused on advancing compensation and supports for the early childhood workforce and this initiative furthers those efforts.

The pilot program is available through calendar year 2023 and is funded through a federal Preschool Development birth through five Planning Grant from the Administration for Children and Families.

Interested child care professionals can learn more about eligibility and application process at




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