Great START Wage Supplement Program

Great START (Strategy to Attract and Retain Teachers) can provide extra money in addition to what a practitioner is already earning. Great START is a wage supplement program that rewards eligible early care and education and school-age care (full-day/full-year programs) practitioners working in Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (IDCFS) licensed child care centers, family/group, and family/homes for receiving higher education and for remaining at their current place of employment. Great START was introduced into legislation in June 2000 and permanently signed into law in 2004. The Great START Program is administered by the Illinois Network of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (INCCRRA) and funded by the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) Bureau of Child Care and Development.

Great START waitlist began July 1, 2011. We do not anticipate being able to pay eligible participants on the wait list until after July 2013. Please click here for more information.

Program Specifics

  • Great START rewards practitioners by supplementing their income based on education attained above IDCFS licensing standards.
  • Great START wage supplements are paid directly to the eligible practitioner on a six-month schedule based on his/her continued employment at the same program. Great START recipients must also continue to meet all other program eligibility requirements.
  • Great START helps a program maintain employees, which increases quality and consistent care to the children, without raising parent fees.
  • Great START builds on and compliments the Gateways to Opportunity Scholarship Program. The Gateways Scholarship Program assists child care and school-age care practitioners with attaining more education. Great START rewards those who have attained education and remain employed at the same child care program.


Gateways to Opportunity is funded by public and private support including the McCormick Foundation, the Grand Victoria Foundation,    

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