Child Care WAGE$ Tennessee


  • Bonuses and Supplemental Pay
  • Professional Learning


Started in 2019, the Child Care WAGE$ Tennessee program rewards early childhood educators with financial incentives based on education and employment continuity in hopes of increasing teacher retention. First funded by the City of Chattanooga over a six-month period, the program awarded $75,000 in supplements to 73 educators from 29 centers. The program was then expanded statewide by the Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS). WAGE$ has awarded more than $4 million in salary supplements across Tennessee to educators. To be eligible, child care professionals should earn at or below the income cap of $20 per hour, and they must work with children ages birth to 5 at least 10 hours a week in a licensed child care program. Levels of salary supplements are specific to the educator’s level of education, and supplements are issued in two six-month direct-deposit payments following completion with the same child care program. Through its department of human services, Tennessee also offers various professional development to early educators, including trainings (both in person and online), a registry, a resource-sharing platform for directors and owners, and tech coaching. WAGE$ is now funded through TDHS and is administered by Signal Centers.

This program is part of the national Child Care WAGE$ project.


Child Care Wage$ Tennessee. (n.d.). About Us.

Child Care Wage$ Tennessee. (2022). Fact Sheet.

Tennessee Department of Human Services. (n.d.). Child Care Incentives, Grants and Supports.

Tennessee Department of Human Services. (n.d.). TNPAL, Training and Professional Development Resources.

Connections to Key Early Learning Study at Harvard (ELS@H) Findings:

The early education workforce is the foundation upon which all daily work and any expansion and quality improvement efforts rest. Research suggests that states and cities should invest in the workforce across all early education setting types, focusing on enhancing educators’ professional learning,Professional learning: Learning and support activities (e.g., coaching) that help develop educators’ competencies and skills. compensation, and workplace conditions.

Findings from the Early Learning Study at Harvard (ELS@H) show:

  • Early educators play a critical role in supporting the well-being of young children and families across setting types.
  • Yet their pay, benefits, and other professional supports are often inadequate in light of the job demands and their cost of living.
Learn More about ELS@H Findings

Learn more about Tennessee

Context matters. Visit the Tennessee profile page to learn more about its demographics, political landscape, early education programs, early education workforce, and funding sources and streams.

Visit the Tennessee Profile Here
  • The state population is 7,051,339
  • The percentage of children under 6 with all available parents in the workforce is 65%
  • The rural percentage is 7,051,339