CCCAP: Teacher Salary Increase

The Need

When we invest in early childhood and education (ECE), we also invest in Colorado’s continued success. Research has shown that supporting early childhood professionals increases the quality of programming for children. 

The median hourly wage of an ECE lead teacher in Colorado in a program participating in Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) is $18.50, almost half of what a kindergarten teacher is paid ($37.10). Colorado’s ECE teachers have higher poverty rates than workers from other industries and often rely on public assistance or take a second job to help make ends meet. Low pay also makes it challenging to recruit and retain qualified ECE teachers, both of which affect the quality and continuity of care provided to children. 

The Strategy

To better support the early childhood workforce, the Colorado Department of Early Childhood (CDEC) is investing Child Care Development Fund funds to conduct a livable wage pilot program for teachers serving children from birth through age five for two years. 

Program Eligibility

  • 40% of children enrolled in the program receive CCCAP subsidies 
  • The child care center holds a Colorado Shines Rating between Level 3 and 5 
  • Eligible staff includes lead teachers, co-teachers and assistant teachers/classroom aides who: 
    • Are assigned to infant, toddler and preschool classrooms; and 
    • Work 16 hours or more per week. 
  • At this time, funding is not available for program administrators, directors, substitutes, floaters and itinerant or traveling teachers/content specialists. 

A lottery system (random assignment) was used to select child care programs that met the eligibility criteria. No additional selection rounds are expected. 

Key Outcomes and Learnings

This pilot launched in January 2023. More than 300 early childhood teachers and assistant teachers are receiving wage increases of $2.99 to $7.58 per hour for two years, based on location and position. This equals approximately $5,440 to $13,795 annually (based on an assumed average 1,820 full-time hours).

Nearly all teachers (94%) at participating providers accepted the offer of higher wages, and the number of teachers working at participating providers has increased by 27% (from 255 to 323). CDEC has rolled out a complementary pilot program for FCCH providers intended to improve their access to benefits. 

Teachers might opt-out of the wage increase if it will cause other income-based benefits to decrease.

blue gear labeled workforce


Amount: $9,000,000 

Source: Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF)

Expiration: June 30, 2025

Next Steps

Through fall of 2024, CDEC will work with evaluation partners to implement follow-up surveys with directors, early childhood teachers, assistant teachers and aides to evaluate staff retention rates, recruitment time periods, and economic well-being. 

Outcomes of the program will help inform whether and how changes in public funding streams may be made to help Colorado’s ECE centers pay teachers livable wages.


Evidence Brief

"CCCAP Teacher Wage Increase Pilot"


(September 2023)


Additional Data

  • 125 child care centers met the eligibility criteria. 
  • 74 programs applied to join the pilot. 
  • 22 child care centers were selected to participate. Of those, 19 are active in the pilot due to some programs no longer operating. 
  • 52 child care centers are in the control group.

pie chart showing percentages of educators opting into program by role