Great START Wage Supplement Program

Great START (Strategy to Attract and Retain Teachers) is a wage supplement program that rewards eligible early care and education and school-age care practitioners 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 funding is currently limited, and a waitlist for new applicants was implemented effective December 1, 2014.

New applicants are encouraged to send in an application, and if found eligible for a wage supplement, will be placed on the waitlist. Eligible applicants will be prioritized on the waitlist according to the Great START State Administrative Code.

Current Great START recipients will not be affected by the waitlist as long as all eligibility requirements continue to be met, and renewal application and documentation are submitted in a timely manner.

For further clarification, questions, or to report changes in contact or employment information please contact Great START toll-free at (866) 697-8278.

Program Specifics

  • Great START rewards practitioners by supplementing their income based on education attained above Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (IDCFS) licensing standards.

  • Great START wage supplements are paid directly to the eligible practitioner on a six-month schedule based on continuing to meet all eligibility requirements.
  • Great START helps retain employees, which increases quality and consistent care to the children, without raising parent fees.


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

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