Free money if you work at a preschool

Sometimes you just canít give it away.
Early childhood teacher Summer Hougland poses to celebrate her receipt of a pay supplement. [Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County]
Early childhood teacher Summer Hougland poses to celebrate her receipt of a pay supplement. [Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County]
Published May 24

An organization that works with preschools in Hillsborough County has an unusual dilemma: Money for the taking, without enough recipients stepping forward.

The source of the money is WAGE$, a grant program that seeks to reward teachers for longevity when they work at early childhood centers that qualify as School Readiness programs.

To qualify for pay supplements between $200 and $3,000 a year, they must work at the center at least six months and meet minimum education qualifications that are outlined in this table.

School Readiness child care owners and directors were emailed with this information in February. But the Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County, which is working with an organization called Children’s Forum to administer the program, has had some difficulty getting word out to the roughly 4,500 employees who qualify.

Some statistics:

  • Approximately 620 early childhood programs qualify
  • The coalition has invested $609,000 in Salary Supplements, and to date $301, 431.81 has been spent.
  • Seventy-one new applications are being processed for June payments.
  • Another 408 teachers are participating.
  • Roughly 200 teachers applied but either did not qualify, or submitted applications that were not complete.
  • That still leaves hundreds who could be eligible for this free money.

Studies show that staying on the job a long time makes preschool teachers more effective in getting their students ready for kindergarten. Programs such as WAGE$ also encourage teachers to continue their formal education.

But they do not have to spend the money on classes if they already qualify.

To find out more, call (888) 352-4453 or visit the program website.


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