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We reward early childhood educators

WAGE$ promotes a high-quality learning environment by reducing turnover, addressing the low pay of educators, and rewarding them for their higher education.

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About WAGE$

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Our beginning

The WAGE$ program was initially piloted in the city of Chattanooga. Over a six-month period, beginning April 2019, $75,000 in supplements went to 73 early childhood educators from 29 child care centers.

Because of the program's success locally, the Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) expanded WAGE$ statewide. As of September 2023, WAGE$ has given out over $12,000,000 in salary supplements to over 3,000 educators across Tennessee.

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Our mission

Child Care WAGE$® Tennessee is dedicated to supporting early childhood educators by providing financial incentives linked to their education and consistent employment.

This not only enhances teacher retention but also ensures children benefit from stable relationships and highly qualified educators. WAGE$ prioritizes individual professional growth without impacting program budgets, regular wages, or parent fees in child care facilities.

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Our organization

Child Care WAGE$® Tennessee is licensed by the Child Care Services Association in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and is made possible through a collaboration with Signal Centers and TDHS.

Signal Centers is a Chattanooga nonprofit focusing on promoting self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities, the early childhood workforce, and young families.

Educators give WAGE$ a gold star

Meet the WAGE$ team

We care about supporting educators because we have all been one at one time or another. Together, we have over
70 years of experience in early childhood education.

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Heather Hicks

Chief Officer of Statewide Initiatives; Director, Child Care Resource & Referral Network


Jen Tedder



Alli Tootle

Deputy Director


Erin Wilcox

Administrative Support


Lindsey Thurman

Marketing and Communications Strategist


Josué Vega

Marketing and Communications Specialist


Marian Ingram



Stephanie Willingham

Education Counselor


Kayli Jefferson

Education Counselor


Shelby Quillin

Education Counselor


Jessica Wright

Education Counselor


Jenny Dreggors

Education Counselor


Contact us

Don't let your questions keep you from getting a salary supplement. We are here for you, so don't hesitate to reach out via our live chat with questions, comments, or concerns.

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Apply to receive up to $7.8k a year

The work you do matters. Get acknowledged now for your education and commitment to the early childhood field.

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