Count Me In: Schools as Critical Partners in #Census2020

by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist

The stakes could not be higher for Illinois in the upcoming census. As Shawn Healy shared in a blog post almost a year ago, “According to the George Washington Institute of Public Policy, $800 billion of federal funding supporting 300 programs is appropriated annually to states based on census counts. Due to Illinois’ undercount in 2010, the state lost $952 per person of federal funding. In 2015 alone, Illinois lost $122 million for every 1% of the population we failed to count.”

Shawn continues to explain, “It’s widely known that Illinois is losing population in recent years, with losses most pronounced outside of metropolitan Chicago. In fact, 89 of Illinois’ 102 counties experienced population loss from 2010 through 2017. Rockford, Kankakee, Decatur, and Metro East (suburban St. Louis) have been particularly hard hit, while Lake County is the only Chicago area county with a shrinking population. Given the stakes of Census 2020, it’s imperative that we identify and mobilize HTC (hard to count) communities in Illinois.” is hosting a free webinar this Tuesday, November 12th from 3:45-4:30 p.m. to explore how your school can play a critical role in helping all stakeholders in your community to understand the importance of an accurate count and how to navigate difficult questions your students, staff, and parents may have concerning participation.

In this webinar, we will explore how the 2020 census will play an important role in addressing essential questions related to representation, power, resource allocation, and equity that will directly impact your school community for the next decade. Learn about how this census has additional challenges related to adequate funding, reduced staffing, limited testing, and delayed communication plans.

You will also be connected to an inquiry-based lesson plan and other resources that you can use to empower your students to take informed action to support your community to register an accurate count. If you cannot join us live, a recording will be shared via social media with the #CivicsInTheMiddle hashtag.

The 2020 Census provides K-12 civics classrooms an opportunity to engage in inquiry leading to informed action around issues of power and representation. Here are some other resources you can use to engage your community.

Classroom Resources

  • has created a 6-12 Inquiry Lesson Plan “How Does Your Community Count on You?” explore the questions:
    • What is the purpose of the census and how does it “count” or impact my community?
    • How do numbers + lines = power for my community?
    • What are the challenges to an accurate count in my community?
    • What actions can I take to make sure my community "counts"?
  • Statistics in Schools - U.S. Census has free K-12 lessons and activities?
  • Share My Lesson: Census Lessons has compiled lessons around the 2020 census from organizations like C-SPAN, Citizens Not Spectators, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Tenement Museum.
  • Census Brain POP Debate has grades 4-12 explore BrainPOP resources to learn about the U.S. Census
  • The Los Angeles County Office of Education has created resources for grades 5-8 called "Count Me In!"
  • Rock the Vote has an information video and a pledge for students to be counted.

Understanding Census 2020 in Illinois

Community Outreach Materials

What are you doing to support an accurate count for #Census2020? Please reply below. Together we can prepare ALL students for college, career and civic life.


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