How schools are working to count every child in the 2020 census
Nearly 1 million children younger than 5 in the United States were not counted during the 2010 Census, officials say.
The error -- attributed to inaccurate reporting by parents and mistakes made by census enumerators -- had implications for allocating government funds toward the education, health and well-being of those children and their families.
"Missing one child means missing out on federal funding for that child for the next 10 years," state Superintendent of Education Carmen Ayala said during a recent census summit in Chicago.
Mobility, child custody issues, distrust of government, immigration status, language or literacy barriers, and complex and shared living arrangements are among the reasons why children, youth and college students could fall through the cracks.
Schools and colleges are integral to helping families understand the importance of the 2020 Census and improving participation, especially among hard-to-count groups such as young children, immigrant families, people of color, homeless people and college students, U.S. Census Bureau officials say.
That's why government officials are turning to educators to deliver a clear message -- make every child count in 2020.
"Schools are anchor institutions of our communities, and very trusted," Illinois Deputy Gov. Jesse Ruiz said. "People revere their teachers, as they should. They are going to listen."
Illinois has set aside $29 million for census outreach efforts in partnership with local community groups, schools, libraries, governments, and social service agencies to get a full count next year. Key to these efforts is leveraging the biggest asset -- children.
"Don't discount the kids," said Choua Vue, vice president of community impact for Illinois Action for Children and a child of refugees who helped her parents navigate the U.S. system. "They are going to be our largest champions for families that we are not able to access."
The stakes are high for 2020. Census data is used for the distribution of more than $1.5 trillion in federal funding, grants and support to states, counties and communities. It helps determine funding for schools, hospitals, roads, public works and social services such as Medicaid and college aid.
For schools, the census helps determine allocation of federal funding for Title I programs, special education, bilingual education, classroom technology, teacher training, Head Start, preschool and after-school programs, and school lunch assistance.
"Students who are not counted, it's their entire school life that gets missed because of these undercounts," said Darren Reisberg, Illinois State Board of Education chairman. "In 2010, Illinois' self-response rate was 80.7% of households ... lower than any other state around us."
Elgin Area School District U-46, the state's second-largest school district with more than 38,000 students, receives $38 million in federal funding.
"The kids are coming, either way," CEO Tony Sanders said. "The bigger piece for us is to ensure every kid (in the state) is counted for the purpose of funding not just public schools, but also federal dollars that can come back though social service agencies and other units of government."
State education officials are urging schools to raise awareness through census-themed pep rallies, student art contests, school newsletters, and talk about the census during parent-teacher conferences and school board meetings.
"There's a rule of thumb in advertising that says people need to hear something seven to nine times before the message sinks in," Ayala said. "So start talking about the census at every public meeting and community event. We are encouraging all of our schools to host census nights during the online self-response period, March 12 through April 27."
How to count young children•Count children in the home where they live and sleep most of the time, even if their parents don't live there.
•If a child's time is divided between more than one home, count them where they stay most often. If their time is evenly divided, or you don't know where they stay most often, count them where they are staying on Census Day -- April 1, 2020.
•If a child's family, or guardian, is moving during March or April 2020, count them at the address where they are living on April 1, 2020.
•Count children in your home if they don't have a permanent place to live and are staying in your home on April 1, 2020, even if they are only staying with you temporarily.
•Count newborn babies at the home where they will live and sleep most of the time, even if they are still in the hospital on April 1, 2020.
For more information, visit 2020census.gov.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau