Every 10 years — since 1790 – the United States conducts a census to count everyone who lives in this country. The federal government allocates funding for several programs on the basis of census counts; a state’s number of Congressional representatives is also determined by the census.
The census directly impacts federal funding for schools and communities in New Jersey, including funding for special education, teacher training, school meals assistance, technology, Head Start and after-school programs. New Jersey receives nearly $23 billion in federal funding based on data from the 2010 census. It is estimated that 27,000 children (5.2%) under age 5 in New Jersey were missed by the 2010 census. If children are undercounted in the 2020 census, it will result in less funding for important public services.
On Feb. 19, New Jersey Commissioner of Education Dr. Lamont Repollet issued a memo urging schools to promote census awareness and encourage participation. The memo went to all chief school administrators, charter school and Renaissance school project leads, and nonpublic school administrators. The document suggests specific strategies that schools can implement.
What Can Local Boards Do? NJSBA has created a 2020 Census Toolkit on its website to provide information and resources on the census. Suggestions for actions by boards include:
- Adopt a board resolution in support of a complete census count. Download a sample resolution here.
- Make information about Census 2020 an item on every board agenda.
- Share information about the census through social media platforms and districtwide newsletters. Messages about the importance of participating in the census can be incorporated into almost all school district activities, including school music recitals, sporting events, and school theater presentations.
- Partner with local parent-teacher associations to stress the importance of the census. Information can be distributed at meetings and other events.
- Urge your schools to incorporate census information in civics education lessons. The U.S. Census Bureau’s Statistics in Schools program provides free activities and resources for teachers here.
- Consider offering access to district facilities (library, computer lab, etc.) for families without internet access to complete the first-ever online census response option in March-June 2020. Or share guidance on how families can complete the census forms using hard copies or by phone: gov/ways-to-respond.
- Provide interpreters for families in need of language assistance when completing the form. Share information that the online form and telephone line will be available in 13 languages, and language guides will be available in 59 languages other than English: gov/en/languages.
Beginning in March, households will receive official Census Bureau mail and can begin responding to the 2020 Census online at 2020census.gov. Replying by mail or telephone is also an option. Later in the spring census takers will go door-to-door to count people who have not responded to the census.