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Why the NEA Is Promoting the 2020 Census to Students and Their Families

America Counts Staff

The 2020 Census is underway and many organizations are partnering with the U.S. Census Bureau’s Statistics in Schools (SIS) program to promote the nationwide population count.

Their support is critical as the decennial count affects the allocation of funds to states and communities each year for the next decade for schools, social services, health care facilities, roads, and more.

SIS uses census statistics and resources to create free classroom activities and materials. These resources can easily be adapted for students and parents or caregivers to use at home. New activities highlight the 2020 Census and the importance of counting everyone, especially children.

The National Education Association (NEA) has a long history of working with the Census Bureau and embraced the opportunity to partner with SIS for the 2020 Census.

Here’s our Q&A with Mary Kusler, senior director of the NEA Center for Advocacy.

“Our members are encouraging parents to fill out the 2020 Census with their kids, using it as an opportunity to help educate their kids while schools are closed due to this pandemic.”

— Mary Kusler, senior director, NEA Center for Advocacy

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Organization Name: National Education Association

Headquarters Location: Washington, D.C.

Organizational Mission: NEA advocates for education professionals and unites its members and the nation to fulfill the promise of public education to prepare every student to succeed in a diverse and interdependent world.

What motivated your organization to become a partner?

The decennial census touches so many parts of our lives, from political apportionment to funding for students and the schools they attend. Our organization’s goal is to have an excellent public school in every neighborhood. One important step is to make sure all our children — as well as all other people in our communities — are counted.

As a partner, what were you doing before the recent school closures to promote a complete count in the 2020 Census?

NEA’s 3 million members — educators and public employees in every community across the country — are trusted voices in their communities.

They have dedicated their lives to helping their students succeed. NEA kicked off its “We Count” campaign to empower members to engage with their students and students’ families and help them understand that participation in the census is easy, safe and important.

As part of this campaign, educators distributed take-home flyers, downloaded toolkits for use in schools, and participated in the Census Bureau’s Statistics in Schools program. We also ran targeted digital ads and worked with community partners to promote participation in the census.



The NEA webpage for its campaign provides classroom lessons, take-home flyers, posters and more that educators can use to raise awareness of the 2020 Census.

With the recent closure of so many schools, how have you adapted your campaign?

COVID-19 has driven more of life and learning online — but this year’s census is online anyway! While schools have closed across the country and we are social distancing because of the coronavirus, educators continue spreading the word that there is safe and easy action we can take for our communities by filling out the 2020 Census.

Through distance learning, educators continue to use SIS activities to teach their students about the census. And our members are encouraging parents to fill out the census with their kids, using it as an opportunity to help educate their kids while schools are closed due to this pandemic. Regarding the rest of the “We Count” campaign, we have increased our use of digital outreach and stepped up our partnership efforts.

What messages do you think are most effective for NEA in promoting the 2020 Census?

Participation in the census is easy, safe and important. The 2020 Census makes visible the strength of our communities, including every student, parent and family in our country. An accurate census is key to getting our public schools and communities the resources they need to serve all students — regardless of where they live, what language they speak at home or whether they are black, brown or white.

The census will be used to determine the number of seats each state receives in the House of Representatives and to redraw legislative and school board districts around the country. That is why it is critical that every person be counted in the 2020 Census.

What’s the most rewarding thing about being an SIS partner?

For educators, the most rewarding thing is knowing that they are helping ensure that their students and students’ families count.

By teaching their students using SIS resources, educators are helping them learn civics, math, geography and other subjects. And as our public school educators spark their students’ natural curiosity and imagination, they are helping their communities get the resources they need to serve all students, especially those most in need.

What advice would you give to other partners?

The decennial census lasts only a few months, but the impact lasts for 10 years. We all need to get to work to make sure every person living in America knows that the census is easy, safe and important. This is a rare opportunity to shape the future for our communities.


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