Young children thrive when they have stable and engaging relationships with their caregivers. Yet child care providers struggle to pay their staff a living wage, which contributes to the alarmingly high turnover rates in child care settings. The Enhanced Child Care Support and Teacher Retention Award (ECSTRA) Program seeks to help stabilize the early childhood educator workforce by directing American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds directly to educators who remain in key child care roles, in the form of additional retention bonuses.
The ECSTRA program is inspired by a similar program in Virginia, the Teacher Recognition Program, which reduced teacher turnover rates by 50% in child care centers. Across the United States, many state and local governments are seeking to support the early childhood education workforce through increasing compensation. A major challenge facing policymakers is, given constrained funding and a need to balance bonus sizes with reaching a larger population of early childhood educators, whether offering larger bonuses indeed leads to greater impacts on retention and other outcomes. Findings from the ECSTRA program will help to inform these and other questions, both for MSDE and for other policy contexts.
Maryland early educators may apply for the program and provide the Maryland State Department of Education with up-to-date and accurate information about their employment status. To participate in the ECSTRA program, individual early educators must apply for the program, meet certain eligibility criteria, and agree to participate in a lottery to determine the size of the retention bonus they will be eligible to receive. Applicants will be notified if they are in the ECSTRA program in October 2023. ECSTRA participants will receive their ECSTRA retention bonuses if they remain employed in the same program in an eligible role from the start of the ECSTRA program for at least 5 months to receive the first half of the retention bonus, and at least 8 months to receive the second half of the bonus.