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March to the Census

Countdown to BILLIONS OF DOLLARS!

I’m a teacher. I know what counts. And in the month of March, what counts – literally – is the Census.

If you work for a public school, college or university, and you’re tempted to surf away from this fabulous blog page on The Census since it doesn’t have anything to do with you, let me explain that there’s about $40 BILLION DOLLARS in EDUCATION FUNDING at stake with the The Census.

If you’re reading this, and you’ve got students – preschool to graduate school – you’ve got a stake in the Census.

Here’s why:

State and federal agencies (like the Department of Education) use Census figures to make decisions about Title One allocations, college loan programs, all kinds of school improvement grants and things that affect our communities like who gets money for roads and bus service. It affects how much states might get for health care for low-income children, Head Start and Special Education.

They use The Census to determine which states win or lose a seat in the House of Representatives. (Remember, these are the folks who determine so much about our professional and personal lives. Even if you don’t like yours, they count!)

It only comes around every ten years, so if it’s wrong, we don’t get a chance to make it right for ten more years.

Here’s the thing. In this era of concerns about privacy and too much information going who knows where, some of our students’ families (ok… some of us!) are going to hesitate putting down information about how many folks live in our households, our ethnic background and our level of education.

I’m filling out my form because I know how important it is to have an accurate count. I know what kind of security is being used to protect information. I know they need this count so they can tell how many kids are heading to public schools and colleges, and educators use that information so that we can advocate for their educational opportunities on the local, state and national level.

The National Education Association is a proud partner with The Census. We need each teacher, support professional, principal, superintendent and school board to be a partner, too. It’s up to all of us to help our students and their families understand what The Census is and why they should all participate.

The Census counts citizens and non-citizens. The information gathered cannot be used against anyone. It cannot be shared with any other agency. All Census Bureau employees are personally sworn for life to protect the confidentiality of all data and face personal prosecution, fine and imprisonment for any disclosure.

The Census reaches out to all. They have forms in Braille. They have information hotlines for the hearing impaired. And they are asking schools to help.

All schools in the country have been sent student and family packets on The Census. But “schools” ultimately means “you”.

This is the most fabulous civics lesson you could ask for – and it only comes around every ten years. Listed below are websites with age-appropriate lesson plans, frequently asked questions, ways you can reach out to parents, free stuff for your students on The Census.

The Census is as grassroots as it gets. It’s about our responsibility as participating members of this society. The Census is counting on us. And being part of The Census counts.

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