Who’s counting? The Newark school district is, with stepped up efforts to get families involved in the 2020 census.

The Newark school district has designated April 27 as Census 2020 Day and will start incorporating census lessons in daily curriculum. (Getty Images)

Students from all over Newark, even while at home, will be taught the importance of completing the census during their social studies and math classes, some as early as Monday.  

The Newark school district has designated April 27 as Census 2020 Day in its latest effort to encourage families to participate in the census. 

Thirty-six percent of Newarkers have taken part in the census, which is one of the lowest response rates in New Jersey. The state’s rate is 54.9%, while Essex County, where Newark is located, has a 47.9% response rate — the 18th lowest of New Jersey’s 21 counties. 

The census, which every 10 years attempts to count everyone in the country, affects the amount of federal funding that communities receive for critical programs and services, including funding for the Newark school district. The more Newarkers counted, the more money schools receive for programs like Head Start, after-school programs, classroom technology, subsidized meals, and special education — all of which rely substantially on federal funding, which is allocated per capita.

The Newark school district has made other efforts to encourage families to participate. Earlier this year, the district hosted census workshops for parents at some schools, and parent liaisons helped families complete the census, according to a statement from the district. In addition, throughout May teachers will include lessons about the census though statistics problems in math lessons.

In an email to principals Monday, Newark Superintendent Roger León told principals to submit their students’ census completion counts from April 27 to the district by Tuesday. 

During last week’s virtual parent engagement meeting, when parents could informally talk to school officials, board members encouraged Newarkers to participate in the census, especially now while most Newarkers are home due to the coronavirus.

“We have nothing but time on our hands,” board President Josephine Garcia said.

Newark has been historically undercounted in past years. Just over half of Newarkers sent in their census forms in 2010. The census bureau estimates more than 30,000 New Jerseyans were missed in the 2010 count. A higher count in 2020 could result in more federal funding and could prevent the state from losing another congressional representative, as it did in 2010 based on slow population growth. 

“The consequences for an inaccurate count for our school district is detrimental and will be realized in a number of fiscal, programmatic and legislative shortfalls,” León said in a statement. “We cannot afford to let that happen.”

Children are likely to be missed if they live in homes that might house an extended family member or non-family members. In addition, many immigrants didn’t participate and remain reluctant to complete the forms because they are afraid of being deported. Immigrants comprise about a third of Newark’s population.

Since March, Newarkers have been invited by mail to participate in the census online or over the phone. By early April, the Census Bureau sent paper forms to those who didn’t respond. Temporarily, surveyors collecting census data are not going to homes due to the coronavirus. Newarkers can still fill out the census online.

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