It may not be something that you’ve thought about before, but I want to share a few reasons why the U.S. Census is so important to the well-being of our students and the strength of our public schools.
First and foremost, the census affects $800 billion in public education funding.
Every year the federal government distributes federal education funds to states and localities—funds that help reduce class sizes, hire specialists, provide preschool to low-income families, and ensure that hungry students can get breakfast or lunch to help them pay attention in class.
These funds are allocated based on population and poverty level, information calculated directly from census data.
When children and their families go uncounted, it is unlikely that their schools and communities will receive the resources they need, widening educational inequality.
Young children are at high risk of not being counted. Research shows that the 2010 census missed 10 percent of children under the age of five. That’s more than 2 million kids.
What’s worse is the fact that hard-to-count populations include some of our most vulnerable families: recent immigrants or English language learners; those without stable housing; and children in shared custody arrangements, or those being raised by someone other than their parents.
Because the census count happens only once every 10 years, if we undercount young children, the consequences will last for most of their childhood.
Census data also affects numerous other social programs that directly impact children’s health and academic success, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which keeps millions of families out of poverty.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP
Because educators are trusted, it’s important that we do our part to reassure students and families that participation in the census is safe, important, and necessary. This is how we help ensure that every community receives its fair share of federal and state funding for schools and other critical services.
So please talk to your family, coworkers, and friends about what is at stake for public schools in the census.
As a middle school math teacher, I also encourage you to participate in Statistics in Schools Week, March 2-6, 2020.
Educators across the country will be teaching students about the importance of the census, and you can find an extensive collection of lesson plans, maps, coloring pages, word finds, and more on the Census Bureau website. Our national union also has a Census toolkit with similar resources.
Thank you for helping us make the 2020 census as accurate and complete as possible. I hope you’ll also consider sending home a reminder about the census with your students. Flyers are available on the NEA website in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese.