As part of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Statistics in Schools program, Arizona students have been using census data in classroom learning activities and sharing why it’s important to be counted with their families.
Fourth-graders in Mrs. Randi Bell’s Haley Elementary classroom in Chandler Unified School District have been looking at population census data from all 50 states, as well as graphing and discussing the population change in Arizona from 1890 to 1950 and to 2010.
“We will discuss the possible things that a greater population will require such as schools, roads, utilities, etc,” Ms. Bell said. “We will then make a prediction about an increase or decrease in population to be found when Census 2020 is taken, as well as the reasoning behind why everyone needs to be counted.”
That’s just what Census officials hope happens.
“We’ve been asking teachers and school districts across Arizona and the United States to make sure they’re engaging their students in our Statistics in Schools program,” said Brianna Hatchett, partnership specialist for Census 2020. “We also have a list of sample activities by grade level that teachers can implement at bell work or fun activities.”
Ms. Jasmine Zavala’s students who take part in Jobs for Arizona Graduates at La Joya Community High School in Tolleson Union High School District created a week-long campaign to inform high school students about the importance of the Census and what it consists of.
At Peralta Trail Elementary School in Apache Junction Unified School District, Ms. Kathryn Wilcoxon’s fifth graders used Census data to plan a city.
Apollo Middle School Assistant Principal Lea Lopezgamez said students in Casa Code at first learned what the census was.
Most of the students at the Sunnyside Unified School District school in Tucson had never heard of it before, Ms. Lopezgamez said.
“Students then did some research on how the census affects Latino communities and the importance behind the census,” Ms. Lopezgamez said.
Then students were asked to research some organizations in Tucson, identify their mission and come up with questions they would ask the organizations in regards to how the census had an effect on them as well as how they utilized that information.
“The next step is for the students to contact these organizations to survey them and ask the questions they came up with. This project has also brought an awareness on our campus around the Census,” Ms. Lopezgamez said.
Ms. Kristine Paul’s kindergarteners at Desert Sun Academy in Cave Creek Unified School District also took part in a census activity.
“We did the, ‘Let’s Get the Count Right’ featured activity for Grades K-2. We sang the, ‘Everyone Counts’ song and compared quantities. We talked about population and understanding why it is important to do a Census for distributing resources,” Ms. Paul said.
Why Census 2020 is important for kids and families
Data from the 2020 Census is used to allocate about $675 billion in funding each year nationally for 132 federal programs that affect children and families including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Title I grants to local education agencies, the School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, Early Head Start, Head Start and the State of Arizona’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Hatchett said.
“All of these programs are funded based off Census data,” Hatchett said.
When it starts
Starting March 12th through 20th, every household that has a mailbox will receive an invitation code to respond online, by phone or through the mail to the 2020 Census survey, Hatchett said.
“For a lot of our rural or tribal areas, that may not have mailboxes, they will be hand-delivered this information by an enumerator to their door,” Hatchett said.
Then March 16th through 24th people will receive a reminder letter to fill out the Census questionnaire online.
“A lot of people still are unaware that a citizenship question was not added to the Census survey,” Hatchett said.
If people haven’t responded to the Census, then they’ll receive a reminder postcard between March 26th and April 3.
The Census survey will be available in 60 languages, large print and braille to make it easier for people to complete it, Hatchett said.
If they haven’t filled out the Census, people will receive a reminder letter and paper questionnaire between April 8th and April 16th.
“We want to remind all of our communities that this information is confidential,” Hatchett said. “It is kept safe for up to 72 years. Every census employee is sworn for life to keep this information confidential.”
That means this information won’t be released until 2092 for genealogy and those ancestry reports, Hatchett said.
People will receive a final reminder postcard April 20th through 27th before a Census worker will follow up in person at their home.
Outreach to Latinos, tribal members and rural areas
Mabel Leal, a partnership specialist for Census 2020, said she’s been working with school districts that have more than 50 percent Hispanic students, providing bi-lingual resources and reaching out to schools’ parent engagement teams to help them mobilize their communities for Census 2020.
“In the 2010 Census, tribal communities had a 4.9 percent undercount, which was the highest of all races,” said Nuvia Enriquez, media specialist for Census 2020. “For Census 2020, it’s very important that we reach Native American communities so we’re doing everything we can with our tribal partnership specialists in the state and in the region as a whole.”
Arizona’s three tribal partnership specialists in the state have been working closely with schools, doing presentations and sharing Census materials with Native American parent advisory groups, Indian education programs, parent groups, First Things First, adult education students and college students and work with community-wide events, Enriquez said.
A strong effort has also been made to ensure that the “census workers knocking on people’s doors actually look like the communities that they’re touching,” Enriquez said.
“We know and understand that people are more likely and more willing to give information to people who look like them,” Enriquez said.
Outreach in rural areas is very similar to what’s being done in tribal communities, Enriquez said.
Arizona Kids Count event at South Phoenix school
Ed and Verma Pastor Elementary fourth-graders took part in an Arizona Kids Count event organized by the Arizona Complete Count Committee on March 5.
“The students have been working on a time capsule that is going to be ready and revealed in the next census in 2030 in the Roosevelt School District,” Leal said. “It’s also a celebration for Statistics in Schools.”
Video by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews: Arizona Kids Count event
Roosevelt School District Superintendent Dr. Quintin Boyce said Census 2020 is important for South Phoenix’s future, “and we know that everybody counts and so hearing that message, taking that gospel and sharing it with the broader community is incredibly important.”
An accurate Census count is essential, because “it determines funds for schools, lunches for our students and many other additional programs” that benefit students and families, Leal said.
“Kids, please remind your parents to do the census that starts next week, and remember, everyone counts,” Leal said.
Complete Count Committee Chairwoman Debbie Johnson asked students who the most important person in the room today is, then she told them that they are.
“We want to make sure that all kids like you around the entire state know that they need to be counted, so it’s up to you to tell your parents, your grandparents, your aunts and your uncles and you’re whole family that you count, and they need to make sure they count you,” Johnson said.
Johnson said that one in three houses in this census tract don’t get counted and Arizona’s Complete Count Committee wants to make sure that all households are included in Census 2020.
Each person counted in the census is worth about $3,000 to Arizona in funding for community programs, Johnson said.
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego told students that if they are counted in the census that means “more dollars for our police, our firefighters, our parks, our libraries. They need your help. And I’m confident with today’s event we can get that momentum to get all our residents counted including residents under 10.”
“We are worried that in the last census we missed 50,000 kids under 10 years old, so we need you to go out and tell your friends that we deserve to be counted, because when you are counted it helps us get dollars for those essential city services. We need more books at our libraries. We need more parks. And you can help us create a better Phoenix,” Mayor Gallego said.
“The census and federal funding represents about $866 million annually for the City of Phoenix and that’s on top of what Director Johnson mentioned that $3,000 per person for the State of Arizona,” Mayor Gallego said. “When you stand up and are counted that’s a message to Washington, D.C., that says ‘Show me the money!’”
“Phoenix is the fastest growing city, and we want to make sure everyone is counted so we get our fair share of that money from Washington, D.C. It funds essential programs including schools, KidsCare, and HeadStart that help our young people, and we want to make sure we get every single dollar we deserve,” Mayor Gallego said.
Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman talked to students about how census funds impact them at their school.
“How many of you go to the Eagles Club after school program? Well, that’s one program that the census can help fund,” Supt. Hoffman said. “Do any of you get lunch from the cafeteria? The money from the census also helps make sure that we have good food in our cafeteria.”
“Arizona is growing, and we need to make sure that every single student is counted for all of our schools, educators and students like you,” Supt. Hoffman said.