WAGE$ Lowers Teacher Turnover Rate and More

August 2022

In FY21-22, WAGE$ was a funding partnership between Smart Start of Mecklenburg County (SSMC) and the North Carolina Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE). The Child Care WAGE$® Program impacts the community by improving the quality of early care and education for young children. Most evidence suggests three primary factors associated with teacher quality: stability, education, and compensation. WAGE$ addresses all three.

The Child Care WAGE$® Program is an education-based salary supplement program for teachers, directors, and child care home providers. Each applicant's education, position, and work schedule are assessed to determine the annual award. To encourage consistency, installments based on half of the annual award are issued after each six-month period the participant completes in the same early care and education program. Because these supplements reward teacher education and continuity of care, children aged birth to five benefit from more stable relationships with better-educated teachers. WAGE$ provides compensation that helps build quality.


The turnover rate of Mecklenburg WAGE$ participants for FY22 was sixteen percent, a significant overall improvement compared to the thirty-one percent full-time teacher turnover rate in North Carolina before WAGE$ became a statewide opportunity. WAGE$ provides compensation that helps build quality. This lower turnover rate represents stability for children. Additionally, this rate is well below what might have been expected during this time of flux.

Seventy-seven percent of the FY21-22 WAGE$ participants in Mecklenburg were funded for having an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education, its equivalent, or higher based on the WAGE$ scale. The WAGE$ Program has various temporary award levels, requiring lower education participants to advance up the scale to remain eligible. Or they have submitted documentation during the year to verify their pursuit of additional coursework. This signifies teachers are motivated to continue their education.


The Child Care WAGE$® Program increases compensation for participants through salary supplements. Despite education, payment in the field continues to be low and is not competitive with many other professions. Thirteen percent (13%) of the active Mecklenburg WAGE$ participants earn less than $13 per hour. The challenge of hiring new teachers highlights the ongoing compensation plight of the field. Poor compensation highlights the need for salary supplements to attract and retain qualified staff. WAGE$ survey results support this. Ninety-eight percent of the Mecklenburg respondents stated that WAGE$ encourages them to stay with their current child care programs.

  • 98% of respondents reported satisfaction with WAGE$ and its administration
  • 97% of directors reported positive attitudes toward WAGE$ in their child care programs
  • 100% of those who reported having had interactions with WAGE$ staff found them to be helpful and pleasant
Through graduated salary supplements, the program helps decrease turnover and encourages the continued educational pursuits of the childcare workforce. The compensation is critical, particularly now as North Carolina and the rest of the country battle the "great resignation" as employees around the country demand higher pay, better working conditions, and respect. Smart Start of Mecklenburg County is proud to celebrate last year's successes with the WAGE$ program and to continue that support in the next fiscal year. Click the link below to access the full report.

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