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Educators Play an Important Role in Census 2010

Who counts? The ones who get counted, that’s who.

With the 2010 U.S. Census just around every corner in every neighborhood in America, it’s time to get ready. Educators have a very important role in making sure that families are informed about the importance of the count and that Census-takers get accurate information, especially in “hard to count” areas.

Last fall, your school should have been sent information from the Census about its 2010 count and “Census in Schools” (CIS) program. Inside the packets are materials to be shared with families, as well as lesson plans. Educators should make sure that those materials are actively promoted and distributed.

“How would you like to get a 10 to 1 pay-off guaranteed?” NEA Executive Committee member Len Paolillo asked educators at NEA’s Representative Assembly in July of 2009. “If we work as an organization to make sure everybody is counted, it’ll pay off for the next 10 years,” through equitable funding and specific program support.

You might already know that Census figures are used to draw congressional and state legislative districts — but that’s not all they do. “Federal dollars for our schools and students are allocated based on the number of people in each school district,” Paolillo said. “The federal government allocates over $300 billion each year — $300 billion! — to states and communities based on Census data. Over 10 years, that’s an amazing $3 trillion.”

In all, the Census numbers impact more than 50 federal programs, especially Title 1 and special education grants, and college tuition grants and loan programs.

Although the actual count doesn’t begin until March, when the Census mails 130 million forms to every household in America, work already is underway by the Census and its partner, NEA, to publicize the need for a fair and accurate count. As authorized by the NEA Representative Assembly, NEA specifically will be working to target assistance to schools near “hard to count” census tracts, especially where families might not speak English, and it also encourages state and local affiliates to become “Census partners.”

In the meantime, educators should check out the Census in Schools Web site where you can learn more about the Census, but also find lesson plans, maps, historical data, plus coloring pages, quizzes, word finds, and more.