North Carolina: T.E.A.C.H. & WAGE$

Mar 08, 2007

The T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood Project® and the Child Care WAGE$® Project are examples of how a state can use scholarship and wage-enhancement strategies that include infant-toddler teachers. This state example was originally written as part of Starting Off Right: Promoting Child Development from Birth in State Early Care and Education Initiatives and updated for the Charting Progress for Babies in Child Care project.




T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood ®

The T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® program (T.E.A.C.H.) provides scholarships to child care providers to partially cover the cost of tuition, books, release time, and travel expenses. Started as a pilot project by the Child Care Services Association (CCSA) with private funding, T.E.A.C.H. is now funded with state and federal dollars and operates in all 100 counties in North Carolina. CCSA provides technical assistance (including a database, training, and quality assurance tools) to help other states implement the T.E.A.C.H. program. Twenty-one other states have replicated the program. In 2008, over 22,000 early childhood teachers, family child care providers, and directors participated in T.E.A.C.H. nationally.

T.E.A.C.H. scholarships provide assistance for tuition and related costs for child care providers seeking higher education. Participants are required to complete a specified number of college course credits. Scholarships are available to study at all 58 community colleges in the state, as well as 20 of North Carolina\'s four-year state universities. Teachers and family child care providers who care for children birth to age three receive enhanced release time, such that T.E.A.C.H. covers 100 percent of the typical cost of a substitute provider. After completing the coursework, participants receive a bonus (ranging from $100 to $700) or a raise of 4 to 5 percent. Participants are also required to stay in the early childhood field for at least six months or in the same program for six to twelve months. Participants and employers are also required to pay part of the scholarship cost. T.E.A.C.H. also offers a health insurance program, which covers one-third of the cost of health insurance.

The scholarship programs currently available include:

  • N.C. Early Childhood Credential Scholarship Program
  • N.C. Early Childhood Administration Credential Scholarship Program
  • Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential Assessment Scholarship Program
  • N.C. Early Childhood Associate Degree Scholarship Program
  • N.C. Early Childhood Bachelor Degree Scholarship Program
  • T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood Scholars Program
  • Birth-Kindergarten License Scholarship Program
  • Preschool Add-on License Scholarship Program

About 92 percent of participants are enrolled in either the Early Childhood Bachelor Degree Scholarship Program or the Early Childhood Associate Degree Scholarship Program. Both programs require participants to remain in the early childhood education field for at least one year.

T.E.A.C.H. is open to child care providers in state-licensed child care (including programs serving children from infancy through school age), Head Start, and pre-kindergarten programs. Depending on the type of scholarship, providers must work 20 or 30 hours per week to qualify for the program. In addition, teachers, directors, and family child care providers must make less than $15.00 per hour in order to qualify for a full scholarship. Partial scholarships are available to providers making just over the maximum income. Center-based providers and family child care providers who care for children birth to age three receive enhanced release time, such that T.E.A.C.H. covers 100 percent of the typical cost of a substitute provider.

Child Care WAGE$ ®

Child Care Services Association initiated the Child Care WAGE$ ® Project (WAGE$) in 1994, in response to a statewide study of the child care workforce recommending salary supplements. WAGE$ was initially implemented in a single county, with funding from North Carolina Smart Start. The program reduced turnover and increased participation in higher education among participating providers. In 1999, Governor Hunt provided an incentive for all counties to participate, allocating block grant funds from the CCDBG quality set-aside for counties to cover the administrative costs. Many localities use Smart Start funds to provide the actual salary supplements. WAGE$ is now in 69 North Carolina counties, and more than 8,700 teachers, directors, and home providers participated last year. The model has been replicated in Florida, Kansas, and South Carolina, while other states have implemented similar wage incentive programs with different specifications (e.g., Illinois and Wisconsin).

The Child Care WAGE$ ® Project provides salary supplements directly to low-wage teachers, directors, and family child care providers working with children from birth to age five in participating counties. Graduated salary supplements are tiered based on the teacher\'s education level, with different rewards for directors or teachers and family child care providers. Counties choose one of five options for funding the levels of education. As education increases, so does the salary supplement. Participants must work in the same early childhood program for six months before they are eligible to receive supplements. Participants with less education than an AAS must advance to a higher education level within two to three years in order to remain eligible for WAGE$.

In counties that fund WAGE$ through Smart Start, teachers and family child care providers must make less than the income cap selected by the county. Three options are available ranging from $13 to $17. In addition, the provider must spend at least 10 hours per week working with children birth to age five. To receive a salary supplement, participants must also have education beyond high school. To see the education levels funded by WAGE$, go to

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North Carolina T.E.A.C.H. began in 1990 as a pilot project of the Child Care Services Association. The project\'s $23,100 of private funding was used to award scholarships to 21 center-based teachers in Wake, Durham, and Orange Counties. In 1992, T.E.A.C.H. received funding from the state\'s Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG); in 1993, the state legislature provided state general revenue for the program.

Funding for T.E.A.C.H. programs in states across the country comes from a combination of sources, including Head Start, pre-K funding, the Child Care and Development Fund infant-toddler and quality set-asides, the United Way, foundations, corporations, and local funds. About 61 percent of funding came from federal sources in FY 2008.

Funding for the salary supplement component of WAGE$ in North Carolina comes from state dollars, through local Smart Start partnerships. Funds for the administration of the program come from the CCDBG quality set-aside.

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Relationship to Other State Child Care and Early Education Initiatives

T.E.A.C.H. and WAGE$ were initiated by Child Care Services Association (CCSA), a private, nonprofit organization. The state pre-kindergarten program, More at Four, is housed in the Governor\'s Office, which also manages federal Even Start and Title I funds. North Carolina child care licensing and subsidies for low-income families to pay for child care are administered by the Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Child Development. Each of these agencies collaborates with CCSA, invests state general revenue and federal funds in expanding the initiatives, and contracts with CCSA to facilitate the process. For instance, when policymakers created More at Four, they coordinated professional development strategies with T.E.A.C.H. rather than creating a separate program. Scholarships to help teachers earn the Birth to K and Preschool Add-on licenses were incorporated into the T.E.A.C.H. program, and More at Four provides approximately $1 million in funding to CCSA to expand services to meet the needs of More at Four teachers. More at Four pre-kindergarten may be delivered by community-based child care programs as well as by schools, so there is increased demand among child care program teachers for scholarships to meet the More at Four teacher education and licensure requirements.

CCSA collaborates with a number of other early care and education organizations through several formal mechanisms. Sue Russell, CCSA president, is a member of several state boards and organizations focused on early care and education, including The North Carolina Partnership for Children (Smart Start), the North Carolina Child Care Coalition, and the North Carolina Institute for Early Childhood Professional Development. CCSA also collaborates with other organizations through staff participation in advisory committees focused on various aspects of the child care system, from subsidized child care to providing quality technical assistance to child care providers. And CCSA collaborates with two other organizations to provide the state\'s "administrative hub" for regional child care resource and referral services.

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Evaluating Goals and Impacts

T.E.A.C.H. is intended to improve program quality by promoting education, retention, and compensation among providers. In FY 2008, 5,228 T.E.A.C.H. scholarships were awarded. Of these, 92 percent were scholarships to help individuals earn a degree or teacher certification. Over 50 percent of recipients were people of color. Among teachers working on associate and bachelor\'s degrees, an average of 13 to 14 credit hours were completed each year; participant compensation rose an average of 8 to 10 percent per year; and annual turnover was less than 7 percent.

WAGE$ is designed to improve child care quality by reducing turnover and encouraging providers to seek higher education. A study found that in 2003, the North Carolina statewide turnover rate was 24 percent. In 2007/2008, the turnover rate was 16 percent for WAGE$ participants. In addition, 20 percent of WAGE$ participants received a higher supplement due to increased education.

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Additional Opportunities and Challenges


  • Smart Start funds a number of important early childhood programs, but there is always a need for additional funding to sustain programs serving children birth to five.
  • There is a waiting list for child care subsidies in the state, and some child care centers are closing or eliminating infant/toddler care because they cannot find enough parents who can pay fees without subsidies.

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Advice for Other States

  • Address the needs of the early care and education workforce as part of building a high-quality system.
  • Make strategic decisions. For instance, WAGE$ rewards providers who seek higher education, despite the fact that some would like to see the program reward longevity in the field. This decision was made for the explicit purpose of promoting professional development and education among providers.
  • Provide research-based evidence. For example, Child Care Services Association (CCSA) tracks turnover among participants in both programs and finds substantial increases in retention. CCSA also publishes an annual report on these initiatives and shares it with key stakeholders in the state.
  • Identify champions. WAGE$ was able to expand with the backing of Governor Jim Hunt, who provided state money to cover administrative costs and therefore provide an incentive for more counties to use the program.

The T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood ® Project National Technical Assistance Center advises states and localities on both T.E.A.C.H. and WAGE$ (

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Additional State Information

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Interview with Sue Russell, President, Child Care Services Association, on January 26, 2006 and updated on October 3, 2008.

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