State launches pilot program to give salary supplements to early childhood educators

GOV. DANIEL J. MCKEE, the R.I. Department of Human Services and the Rhode Island Association for the Education of Young Children are launching a pilot program to support early childhood educators in the state by providing education-based salary supplements. / AP FILE PHOTO/STEVEN SENNE

PROVIDENCE – Gov. Daniel J. McKee, the R.I. Department of Human Services and the Rhode Island Association for the Education of Young Children are launching a pilot program to support early childhood educators in the state.

The Step Up to Child Care WAGE$ Program will provide education-based salary supplements to early childhood professionals, including teachers, directors and family child care providers.

“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,” McKee said. “This pilot program will ensure Rhode Island continues to have a top-tier education program starting at the earliest ages.”

To be eligible, educators must work with children in an early childhood setting at least 10 hours per week in a DHS-licensed child care program participating in Comprehensive Community Action Program/Brightstars in Rhode Island; must have a level of education appearing on the WAGE$ supplement scale; and must be earning at or below the income cap of $23 per hour.

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“This is an exciting opportunity to continue to grow the child care profession and the skills of those providing these critical services,” said DHS 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.”

Created by Child Care Services Association in North Carolina, the Child Care WAGE$ Program is meant to increase the education and retention of the early care and education workforce. Rhode Island’s 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.

“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,” said Lisa Hildebrand, executive director of the Rhode Island Association for the Education of Young 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.”

Claudia Chiappa is a PBN staff writer. You may contact her at Chiappa@PBN.com.

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