TAHLEQUAH, OKLAHOMA — Cherokee Nation Head Start teachers are seeing an increase in their paychecks after an act passed in July by Tribal Council added funding to align their salaries with the state scale.
Early Head Start Teacher Katie Reynolds’ pay bumped up from $10.87 per hour to $11.87 when she recently earned her associate’s degree, because the act now increases pay $1 per hour for every higher level of credential. Reynolds will earn a bachelor’s degree early next year for another raise.
“This increase is so helpful, and as a single mom with two kids, it makes a huge difference,” said Reynolds, an employee of 12 years. “To me, it’s an incentive to get a higher degree and to keep teachers, who are making a difference in the lives of children, in our classrooms.”
About 100 certified Head Start teachers within the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction are benefiting from the appropriation.
“Any time a tribe gives money to a Head Start program, it’s wonderful,” said Verna Thompson, Early Childhood Unit director. “We are very grateful for what the Tribal Council appropriated, in addition to their years of support for the Head Start program. We feel very fortunate that they and the Cherokee Nation administration can give us funding for competitive wages to better recruit and, in turn, help us lower the turnover rate. It is showing great promise.”
During the July Tribal Council meeting, council members unanimously voted to appropriate additional tribal funds to Cherokee Nation’s Head Start program. The 2013 Cherokee Nation Head Start Funding Act provided a match of 12.5 percent to Head Start’s federal funding with tribal dollars.
As a result, Head Start teacher pay is $10.87 per hour with a Child Development Associate credential; $11.87 per hour with an associate’s degree; and $12.87 with a bachelor’s degree. Head Start lead teacher pay is $19.75 per hour with a bachelor’s degree in Child Development or Early Childhood.
Cherokee Nation Head Start educates children up to age 5.
Cherokee Nation Head Start Funding Act Showing Great Promise