How Teachers Are Using Census Data To Help Their Towns Get An Accurate Count in 2020

Feb 17, 2020

Postcards for the 2020 Census go out next month. But schools are already using past census data to illustrate trends and teach students the importance of an accurate count.

The census dictates billions of dollars in federal funding. That includes education funding for special ed, after-school and a plethora of other programs.

This is the first census cycle teachers can use Statistics in Schools. It’s an initiative that sorts census data for teachers at any level.

Lem Wheeles is a history teacher using the program in Anchorage, Alaska. He says understanding census data is vital for his class because remote parts of his state are often undercounted.

“We can look at reapportionment and gerrymandering congressional districts with my government class, those sorts of things," he said. "So it really does make it accessible and -- right out of the box -- grab a lesson and go.”

He says the data sparked conversations about redistricting and how this year’s census will impact the electoral college for the 2024 presidential election. 

“I see our role, in addition to teaching about the census and what it does, as we have an opportunity to help make sure the count is accurate. To make sure that our state gets its share of the funding,” said Wheeles.

He says it also encourages them to share it with their family and make sure they get correctly counted.

Victoria Glasier is a census spokesperson and manager of the Statistics in Schools initiative.

She says it's important students grasp just how much the census impacts their communities and schools.

Illinois was undercounted in the last census, causing Illinois to lose out on more than $100 million in federal health funding, per the George Washington Institute of Public Policy.

Glasier says the bureau is focusing resources on getting children under five counted.

“In 2010, that was the largest group that was undercounted. And when we think about it, if we don't get you when you're under five, that's 10 years of education programs that they're not accounted for," she said."

It’s estimated that it will cost Illinois thousands per child per year in missed federal funds.