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NEA Gears Up for Census 2010

By John Rosales

February 4, 2010 -- It started last week on the stone-cold ground of Noorvik, Alaska. In this remote Inupiat Eskimo community north of the Arctic Circle, census takers started delivering census forms that aim to count every household in America.

A campaign that was launched in a town of about 8,000 people on January 25 will continue through March as 130 million census forms are delivered or mailed to U.S. residences. On National Census Day (April 1), questionnaire responses should have been filled out and turned in to the Census Bureau, thereby representing a count of every person in every household in the nation --- and the nation as a whole. 

 Work on the 2010 Census has been underway at NEA since last September, about the same time that K-12 schools received hefty information packets from the bureau rich with lesson plans. Educators can download lessons as well as maps, historical data, coloring pages, and quizzes at the Census in Schools Web site. For higher education materials, see Census on Campus.
“I have not done any of the activities yet, but I have talked to students about the importance of the census,” says Jon Langner, a social studies teacher at Noorvik Aqqaluk High School and Middle School.

Census figures are used to not only draw congressional and state legislative districts, but also to allocate $400 billion in federal funds each year for schools, hospitals, and roads.

Census numbers impact more than 50 federal programs, especially Title 1 and special education grants, and college tuition grants and loan programs. Since allocations to schools are based on the number of people residing in a school district, students have a lot to gain – or lose – based on whether their parents fill out the three-page questionnaire, which takes about 10 minutes.

For Langner, that means encouraging his students to watch their mailboxes and inform their parents about what’s at stake.  A member of the Northwest Arctic Education Association, Langner says he is anxiously awaiting the arrival of his own census form.

“I plan to bring it to school and show the kids what it looks like,” he adds. Some schools are planning activities around Census in Schools Week.
Census takers got a head start in Noorvik while the frozen ground provides access by bush plane, dogsled and snowmobile. Temperatures hover just above zero in Noorvik until the spring thaw when residents begin to migrate, which makes them difficult to count.

Due to population movement as in Noorvik, the bureau has produced Hard To Count (HTC) maps. NEA has been working with the census to assist schools near HTC tracts, which happen to fall in Priority Schools areas.

“This finding of HTC areas underscores why the census count and thus, funding, is so important to these schools,” says Rufina Hernández, an NEA liaison to the bureau. “NEA and our members are committed to work even harder to ensure that an accurate count happens.”