• Urban Educator logo

Big-City School Districts Push to Get Everyone Counted in 2020 Census

  • The official launch of the 2020 U.S Census was March 11, 2020 and households across the nation will soon begin receiving official U.S. Census Bureau mail with information on how to complete the census online, by phone or by mail.  

    Big-city school districts across the nation have been emphasizing the importance of everyone being counted in the 2020 Census. The census is particularly important to urban school systems because it is vital to the distribution of more than $675 billion for federal programs serving students living in poverty, English learners, students with disabilities and those participating in the National School Lunch program. 

    Here’s a snapshot of Census 2020 activities taking place in urban school districts: 


    New Mexico’s Albuquerque Census Flyer Public Schools developed and adopted a plan of action around ensuring a complete count of all students, children, and their families residing within the school district on the 2020 Census. The district developed a 2020 Census website, provided talking points for principals on the importance of the census, printed census posters for all schools and sent out 10,000 backpacks to English learners at elementary, middle, and high schools with culturally relevant books and a census handout in English and Spanish. The district also targeted social studies teachers by providing them with support and resources and invited U.S. Census officials to speak to approximately 400 social studies teachers representing all grade levels.  


    North Carolina’s Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is a partner in the Meck+Counts2020 effort to inform and engage residents of the upcoming census and is leading its own engagement and awareness campaign targeting the district’s 19,000 employees and 148,000 students, as well as families and district partners. The objectives of the campaign are to increase knowledge about Census 2020, increase awareness of the importance of being counted and create easy access to complete the census. Students are being reached through the district’s social media platforms and at district sporting events, while families are receiving census information through the PTA and other school-based associations. The district is reaching out to staff by incorporating census stories in CMS Insider, the district’s digital newsletter, and incorporating census PSAs into the programing rotation of the district’s CMS TV. 


    Cleveland is one of the most undercounted areas for young children in the nation so the Cleveland Metropolitan School District has made publicizing the 2020 Census a priority. The district is promoting the 2020 Census with yard signs, buttons, posters, social media posts and information that can be found at clevelandmetroschools.org/2020census. In February, U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham teamed up with students at the district’s Wade Park School to emphasize the importance of everyone being counted in the 2020 Census. He told the children to let their caregivers know how important it is to count all the children living in the house.        Cleveland

    “We have complex families,” he said in an interview. “We have some children living with families that may not be theirs or their biological parent for a period of time. But it is still important that we get people counted, whether they’re living with a grandparent or an aunt or a friend.”   

    Des Moines 

    Iowa’s Des Moines Public Schools has been sharing information and reminders for families about the census, including an event that the U.S. Census Bureau hosted at the district’s River Woods Elementary School. The school was approached about hosting the event because it is located in the hub of a region the Bureau determined was undercounted in 2010. When the school was first approached about hosting, principal Traci Shipley was excited. “Our theme all year has been Census representative discussing importance of the 2020 Census Cultivating Connections,” she said. “We’ve been emphasizing getting our parents engaged and involved in lots of different ways and this fits perfectly with that idea.” In addition, to hosting events at individual schools the district has posted a web page on the census, has done regular reminders on social media and in the district’s e-newsletter, and promoted census participation on digital billboards. 


    California’s Fresno School District

    ​​​​​​​​​​​​Fresno Unified adopted a board resolution on December 2018 to raise awareness about the 2020 Census and the importance of an accurate count as the district is home to populations that are frequently undercounted, children under 5, youth, immigrants, renters, homeless and foster youth, English learners, people with disabilities, and communities of color.  The district is committed to partnering with the local Complete Count Committee to communicate, promote, and encourage staff, students, and families to participate in the 2020 Census. 

    Guilford County 

    The board of education for North Carolina’s Guilford County Schools in Greensboro passed a resolution to show its commitment to supporting a fair and accurate count for the 2020 Census. The district receives about $59 million in federal funding for programs such as school breakfast and lunch, Career and Technical Education, special education and professional learning for teachers. The school board’s resolution notes that large urban areas are often undercounted, in part because of language barriers and concerns about how census data will be used. By law, the Census Bureau cannot release any identifiable information to law enforcement agencies, ensuring that the private data it collects is protected and that answers cannot be used by any government agency or court.  

    Hillsborough County 

    Florida’s Hillsborough County Public Schools in Tampa is working in partnership with the local community to get the word out about the 2020 Census and wants to make sure families understand the importance of being counted. The school system has created a one-page fact sheet for school board members and school principals and an email was sent to families and staff,  in English and Spanish, explaining what the census is and why it’s so important to the district’s Hillsborough Census Logo
    schools. The school system has also created a logo that includes the district, PTA, City of Tampa and Hillsborough County to show how everyone is  working together to “be counted”. And in mid-March, the district is sending an email, text and phone call to families telling them to be on the lookout for census information– and again explain the importance of the census for its schools. 


    The School District of Philadelphia has participated in and facilitated a number of events and campaigns designed to raise awareness, educate, and create advocates for the 2020 Census. They include providing schools backpacks with census information for every student, incorporating educational resources from Statistics in Schools into social studies lessons, and participating in Census Action Days in which select schools will be open in each of the seven regions of the city, providing the opportunity for community members to be able to complete the census online. In late March and April the district is implementing the 'I Was Counted' social media campaign, celebrating those who are completing the census. The district also created a central hub on its website for all things census - www.philasd.org/census, featuring a video, Fast Facts document, and other resources. 

    Pinellas County 

    Pinellas County Schools in St. Petersburg, Fla., joined forces with a coalition of local partners to launch a campaign in January to ensure every person in Pinellas County is counted in the 2020 Census.  The Pinellas Complete Count Committee posted videos, advertised on bus routes, attended events and shared census information in the community, including a #MakePinellasCount social media campaign.   Outreach focused on specific undercounted communities that were not fully represented in the previous census as identified by the U.S. Census Bureau’s Online Mapping Tool, with materials in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.     

    San Antonio 

    In an effort to boost participation in the 2020 Census, the San Antonio Independent School District created marketing materials for schools located in low-response areas such as brochures about residence, confidentiality posters (both in English and Spanish), and fact sheets. The district is also distributing local census “Count Me In” campaign branded items such as magnets, yard signs, and t-shirts to be used as promotional items at the district’s community events. Banners have been placed on buses and a video was produced featuring the superintendent encouraging families and communities to participate and complete their census forms. The school system has also created “Census Labs,” where volunteers with iPads and laptops can guide and encourage parents and community members on the census and allow them to participate on site, including a Mobile Go Center.  

     Stockton Unified School District 

    California’s Stockton Unified School District has partnered with California Complete Count-Census 2020 Office and the use of California Census Schools-Based Outreach tool Count Me In, Students Count to help students in grades K-12 learn about the importance of census participation. Participating schools will use the occasion of the decennial census to encourage students to share information about participating in the census with their parents or guardians. "We are excited to bring the program to Stockton Unified students," said Stockton Schools Superintendent John Deasy. "Educators are vital to ensuring an accurate count, and therefore a successful 2020 Census.” The state has worked with California’s teachers to develop curriculum made for and by California teachers.  

    The online census comes in 13 different languages and video/print user guides are available in a total of 59, plus American Sign Language (ASL), Braille, and large print English. There will not be a question about citizenship on the 2020 Census and all information is confidential. For more information, visit the Census 2020 web site