Step Up to WAGE$

Step Up to WAGE$ is an education-based wage supplement initiative that pays semi-annual stipends to Birth-5 teaching staff in centers and family homes.ย  These stipends are based on the level of education as well as continuous work hours in the same child care program during a six-month certification period.ย  AECA will be using our American Rescue Plan Act funding to begin this program.ย  While it is a temporary fix (and what we hope will transition into permanent funding), we believe it is necessary to act now with some sort of plan to raise wages and help our programs keep qualified staff.

Download our Fact Sheet here.

Download our process brochure here.

๐—ฃ๐—น๐—ฒ๐—ฎ๐˜€๐—ฒ ๐—ป๐—ผ๐˜๐—ฒ ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฎ๐˜ ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐—”๐—˜๐—–๐—” ๐˜„๐—ฒ๐—ฏ๐˜€๐—ถ๐˜๐—ฒ ๐—ถ๐˜€ ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐—ผ๐—ป๐—น๐˜† ๐—ฝ๐—น๐—ฎ๐—ฐ๐—ฒ ๐˜†๐—ผ๐˜‚ ๐—ฐ๐—ฎ๐—ป ๐—ฎ๐—ฝ๐—ฝ๐—น๐˜† ๐—ณ๐—ผ๐—ฟ ๐—ฆ๐˜๐—ฒ๐—ฝ ๐—จ๐—ฝ ๐˜๐—ผ WAGE$ ๐—ถ๐—ป ๐—”๐—ฟ๐—ธ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐˜€๐—ฎ๐˜€. ๐—ข๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ๐—ฟ ๐˜€๐˜๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ฒ ๐—ฝ๐—ฟ๐—ผ๐—ด๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐—บ๐˜€ ๐˜„๐—ถ๐—น๐—น ๐—ป๐—ผ๐˜ ๐—ฎ๐—ฐ๐—ฐ๐—ฒ๐—ฝ๐˜ ๐—ฎ๐—ฝ๐—ฝ๐—น๐—ถ๐—ฐ๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป๐˜€ ๐—ณ๐—ฟ๐—ผ๐—บ ๐—”๐—ฟ๐—ธ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐˜€๐—ฎ๐˜€.

Applications are now open! Apply now.

  • Educator working in a licensed child care center or family child care home.
  • Teachers, assistant teachers, center aids/floaters, and center directors only.
  • Works at least 10hr a week and makes less than $20/hr (Full-time/Part-time formula).
  • Has an educational level appearing on the Step Up to WAGE$ supplement scale
  • Check your school accreditation here

If you are not eligible, please check out the information about our T.E.A.C.H. program.

A child care center must agree to provide verification of an applicantโ€™s employment status and wages and agree not to use participation in the program to offset normal wage increases. The center is not responsible for providing the salary supplement should funding no longer be available.

Interested child care professionals must complete an application and provide verification of (1) current employment in a licensed child care program, (2) current wages, and (3) education earned, as verified by an official transcript or National CDA certificate. See the program application for a checklist of documentation needed. Payments are issued to participants after each six-month period in the same child care program. If a participant moves to another licensed child care program within the six-month commitment period, then the commitment period must be reset based on eligible reapplication and the employment date at the new site. This policy is designed to encourage more stability for the children in care.

Payments are issued following commitment period completion to eligible participants who have met the requirements. Commitment periods run from mid-month to mid-month and are established for each individual participant using the application date, start date, and education documentation. The installment is based on half of the annual award amount and reflects the average hours worked during the six-month period. Program staff must verify that participants have worked in their child care programs during the preceding six months before payments can be issued. Employees must be employed at time of confirmation to receive their payment. Once approved for an award, participants who remain in the same child care program do not need to reapply in order to receive future installments. All payments are contingent upon funding availability.

Laura House

Laura House

SUTW Program Manager

Laura earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Child and Youth Development from Milligan College. From 2006 โ€“ 2016, she worked for Telamon Tennessee Migrant and Seasonal Head Start as first an infant/toddler Teacher and then Education Specialist. During this time, Laura provided ongoing professional development that supported effective teaching practices and positive classroom management, in turn, ensuring continued positive outcomes for children. In 2017, Laura accepted a position as a Center Director in a faith-based early childhood center. In this role, Laura worked to develop a more curriculum-based learning environment for the center by restructuring both the curriculum and lesson plan. In 2018, Laura and her family moved to Arkansas where she rejoined the Head Start world at Arkansas Ealy Learning. During her time with AEL, Laura served as Coach, Community Partnerships Manager, and most recently, Education Manager. In these roles, Laura was able to continue to provide quality ongoing professional development to education staff via agency-wide, local, regional, and national Early Childhood Education conferences. Some of those include the following: Arkansas Early Childhood Association Annual Conference, Southern Early Childhood Association Conference, Arkansas Head Start Association Institute, and Carnegie Foundation Summit on Improvement in Education. Laura, her husband Nathan, their son Max and fur-daughter Luna, live in Northwest Arkansas and enjoy playing disc golf, hosting board game nights with friends, and visiting family back home in East Tennessee.

โ€œI look forward to working with educators across the state to help them see the value in their continued education for not only themselves but for the children in their care. As a past infant/toddler teacher and advocate for higher pay in ECED, I know first-hand how this monetary supplement will help prove to our early childhood educators how important their role is to the future of not only Arkansas but the country.โ€

You can contact Laura at

Michelle Dowdy

Michelle Dowdy

Step Up to Wage$ Counselor

Michelle began her career in early childhood when she was nineteen. She then married her high school sweetheart and became a stay-at-home mom for five years. After deciding to go back to work, Michelle started a career in banking for the next seven years and then went back to early childhood with Western Arkansas Child Development in 2009 as a secretary. Over the next ten years, Michelle expanded her career from secretary to become the Director and ending as the Program Specialist overseeing all five WACD centers. During that time she became involved with the CALL, her local community, and earned her Arkansas Childrenโ€™s Program Administrator Certificate with much more administrative training to better serve the programs she served. In 2021 Michelle made a switch from early childhood to working in the Crawford County courts as a Deputy Court Clerk.

You can contact Michelle at

Pin It on Pinterest