Child Care WAGE$®

The Child Care WAGE$® Program provides education-based salary supplements to low-paid teachers, directors and family child care providers working with children between the ages of birth to five in participating counties. If you’re just learning about the WAGE$ Program, be sure to check out the program overview, F.A.Q, and learn about the results WAGE$ can provide. You’ll also find information on how to qualify and apply. Not in N.C.?

Get Started with WAGE$


Do you know if you qualify for WAGE$? We make it easy with a list of applicant requirements, information regarding participating locations and more.


Ready to apply? Use our application resources to get started.


Learn more about WAGE$ and its outcomes. See facts and figures, and read testimonials from program participants.


The Child Care WAGE$® Program is offered throughout North Carolina as a funding collaboration between local Smart Start partnerships and the Division of Child Development and Early Education. Learn more about WAGE$ funding.

Program Overview

The Child Care WAGE$® Program was created in response to research-based evidence that shows that the quality of care children receive is lowered by high turnover rates and inadequate teacher education.

Lack of resources and an effort to maintain affordability for parents often make it difficult for individual child care programs to reward or encourage teacher education through salaries. As a result, many teachers leave the field or never even consider the profession an option. WAGE$ is designed to provide preschool children more stable relationships with better-educated teachers by rewarding teacher education and continuity of care.

Watch the video to learn more, or download the PDF flyer.

Watch the video for a quick, easy-to-follow overview of the WAGE$ Program.
Wage$ logo

WAGE$ 2022-2023 Impact

invested in WAGE$ salary supplements

9.1 M+

supplement recipients


average annual turnover rate


average six-month supplement


early education programs with supplement recipients


of active participants have AAS, ECE or higher, or have submitted education during the year to document additional course work


Child Care WAGE$® Webinar

Child Care WAGE$® Webinar – Spanish


  • What is the Child Care WAGE$® Program?

    The Child Care WAGE$® Program provides education-based salary supplements to low paid teachers, directors and family child care educators working with children ages birth to five. The program is designed to increase retention, education and compensation. The Child Care WAGE$® Program is a funding collaboration between your local Smart Start partnership and the Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE).

  • Who is eligible to receive a salary supplement?

    Teachers, directors and family child care educators earning at or below the income cap selected by the funding partnership may be eligible to participate. Partnerships may choose one of three income cap options: $17, $19 or $23/hour. The supplement recipient must work with children ages birth to 5 at least 10 hours per week in a licensed child care program in a participating county and must have a level of education appearing on the Child Care WAGE$® supplement scale. Partnerships may also elect not to fund administrative time, level two education or time worked in a site with fewer than three or four stars.

  • How much will I receive?

    The awards vary based on the tier selected by the funding partnership. Local Smart Start partnerships choose one of three different supplement models (tiers) and awards are issued accordingly. The scales show annual award amounts for full-time eligibility. Awards are issued in two six-month installments, each after the participant completes an assigned six-month commitment period in the same child care program. The amount received will reflect the schedule worked during the six-month period; supplements for part-time employees are prorated. Funding partnerships may choose to apply a percentage cut to supplements due to budget constraints or may increase awards if funding is available.

  • What do I have to do to participate in the Child Care WAGE$® Program?

    Interested early educators must complete an application and provide verification of (1) current employment in a participating child care program, (2) current wages and (3) education earned, as verified by an official transcript or with an active CDA Credential issued by the Council for Professional Recognition. If an official transcript has been submitted to Early Educator Certification or Infant-Toddler Educator AWARD$® Plus, that transcript may be used.

  • How are supplements received?

    Checks are issued following commitment period completion to eligible participants who have met the requirements. Commitment periods run from mid-month to mid-month and are established by CCSA for each individual participant using application date, start date and education documentation. The installment is based on half of the annual award amount and reflects the schedule worked during the six-month period. All payments are contingent upon funding availability. Program staff must verify that participants have worked in their child care programs during the preceding six months before checks can be issued. Payments are mailed after CCSA has received the necessary funding from DCDEE. Once approved for an award, participants who remain in the same child care program and obtain the necessary education (if applicable) do not need to reapply in order to receive future installments.

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WAGE$ News

See WAGE$ news below, or take a look at Results to hear more from WAGE$ participants.

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Have WAGE$ questions? We can help!


We are available by phone Monday thru Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. When calling please reference WAGE$. If you are a current participant please also mention the county in which you work. You can also send us a message online.