LocationAlhambra , CA
Seventy-three educators and administrators from 17 districts in Los Angeles County attended a “Count Me In!” Census 2020 curriculum training event at the Almansor Court in Alhambra, Wednesday.
All 17 districts, including some in the San Gabriel Valley, are receiving outreach funding for what the California Census Office deems the highest “hard-to-count” populations.
These populations that are traditionally hardest to count – including foreign-born residents, rural communities, those without internet access, or small children and babies – are at risk of being undercounted, with a direct result of fewer federal dollars allocated to the community, schools and local governments.
The census does not just affect local funds and programs. If serious undercounting happens in California in Census 2020, the state could lose one or two seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, in which the representation in federal government from each state is directly related to its reported population numbers from the census.
The Los Angeles County Office of Education and the Sacramento County Office of Education are building an awareness and action campaign across the state by encouraging teachers to integrate information about the census into their lesson plans so students will mobilize their families to respond.
The LA County’s Office of Education provides programs and services to support 80 school districts with more than 2 million preschool and school-age children, according to their website.
“People who speak for children are really important messengers,” says Vibiana Andrade, General Counsel for the Los Angeles County Office of Education.
“A few months ago, there was a threat that there would be a question about immigration status, and that was thwarted by lawsuits, fortunately. But that created a lot of fear among many communities,” Andrade added.
The organizers stressed that educators should be clear that no personal data, other than the number of people per household, could be shared with other government agencies. Immigration status or citizenship will not be asked.
Alex Johnson, Office of Education board member, says, “Teachers are interacting with students each and every day. Students have the capacity to carry information to their families, to their parents. For some folks who are most vulnerable in communities, immigrants in particular, students are the only ones who communicate what’s taking place.”
This is why teachers are at the frontlines of the efforts to accurately count California.
But there is another reason to employ digitally proficient students in helping their parents and community answer the census.
For the first time since 1790 when the United States began counting its citizens, this census will be digital.
There will be paper copies available, but the Census Bureau is pushing for digital responses. An invitation to go online and reminders will be mailed to each address.
If those notices go unanswered, the Census Bureau will follow up in person visits.
In a short speech to those in attendance, Johnson framed their teaching and participation of the census as the “civil rights and equity rights issue of our time.”
Andrade echoed Johnson, saying, “The communities that are more likely to be undercounted are communities of color, where you have barriers of language, you have children. Those are the communities that are least able to deal with lack of resources. […] It’s not like people disappear. They remain in the community, and then there’s a resource issue where they’re not being recognized, they’re not being counted. […] It makes it unfair.”
Yasmin Naboa, Senior Fellow at the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab, presented the media effort Count the Nation, with the hashtag #StandUpAndBeCounted aimed at digital natives and social media users. Their goal is to ensure everyone knows how important census participation is to their community.
“Education is the great equalizer, particularly for communities and individuals that have historically been marginalized,” says Johnson
For general information, jobs or other resources, go to Los Angeles County’s census page.
For more information about the LA County Office of Education, including a link to lesson plans for integrating the census into the curriculum, go to the LACOE census page.