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Wayne RESA offering bonuses to new state-funded preschool teachers, staff

young kids playing with toys on floor
Jennifer Guerra
Michigan Radio

New teachers and staff in Wayne County’s Great Start Readiness Program—the county-run, state-funded preschool program for four-year-olds--have started getting incentive pay.

Leaders of Wayne RESA, the county’s intermediate school district, hope the bonus pay will make the profession more financially viable for interested people. It’s $2,400 for new teachers, $1,200 for associate teachers, and $600 for paraprofessionals.

“You receive 50% as part of the signing, and then the other 50% at the end of that school year,” said Daveda Colbert, Wayne RESA's superintendent. “So the goal is that that candidate will remain employed through the end of the school year.”

Colbert said the Great Start Readiness Program in Wayne County currently has more than 8,000 students, but has a waitlist and wants to expand to as many as 10,000. But she said finding enough teachers and staff is the biggest barrier to expansion.

“There are some cases where we've had providers that wanted to expand, that wanted to have additional classrooms, but they cannot open up those classrooms because they don't have the staffing yet,” Colbert said.

But Colbert admitted the incentive pay is “just a baby step” toward making early childhood education a more financially-attractive career option. She predicted that the field will continue to experience shortages unless districts and the state can raise base wages.

“I'll say that it's a start, because the bonus alone is not going to get us out of the crisis,” Colbert said. “But we're competing with individuals who would go to Amazon because they could make more money. We shouldn't be in that position.

“There are some things that we're going to have to do differently in in the area of child care and early childhood education to really get quality people to come into the field, to remain in the field, and to make this a lifelong career choice.”

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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