Ted L. Froats Jr. ’11 Com has caught the eye of someone well positioned in U.S. government – President Barack Obama.
Froats, a public affairs specialist with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C., manages communications for a variety of agencies, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and emergency response, but his specialty is early childhood education and development.
“Working closely with staff from our early childhood office, I created a proposal for ‘universal preschool,’ including talking points and the arguments for and against, so they (the President’s team) would be aware of any potential criticisms up front,” Froats said.
Obama used some of Froats’ talking points in his February State of the Union Address, where he announced universal preschool for the first time.
“A lot of the details are still being worked out, but, in brief, study after study shows us that 0 to 5 years old is the most important time of a person’s life when it comes to brain development,” he said. “If you don’t start on the right path at this time, you may never catch up to your peers.”
The president’s plan provides free, quality preschool to all 4 year olds who live at or below 200 percent of the poverty line, Froats said. The plan includes incentives for states to provide preschool to middle-class 4 year olds as well.
Froats said that moving low-income or poverty-level 4-year-old children into preschool frees up significant funds for the Office of Head Start, which serves many of these children. The funds will allow Head Start to focus on providing early childhood services to an increased number of children 0 to 3 years of age, helping them “get started on the right path from the beginning.”
He also noted that President Obama said the proposal won’t add to the deficit.
“I certainly can’t take credit for inventing the idea of universal preschool, but I did help get that idea to the president and into his speech, getting it one step closer to reality,” said Froats.
He and his wife, Sara, had their first child, Maggie, on May 10. They live in Waldorf, Md.
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