2020 Census: What Families of ELs Need to Know

The goal of the 2020 Census is to count everyone who lives in the United States. The information   gathered by the Census provide statistics that affect funding for K–12 education and other community initiatives for the next 10 years.  The statistics from the 2020 Census help determine how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding is given to communities.  Because 60% of English learners (ELs) in the United States live in poverty, this affects them both in their schools and in their communities. Here are some educational and community resources that are funded:

  • Head Start, special education, after-school programs, and classroom technology
  • The National School Lunch Program that provides free and reduced lunches to students living in poverty
  • Early intervention services for children with special needs
  • Maternal and child health programs
  • Child care, housing support, and children’s health insurance

How Can Families of English Learners File Their Census Information?

The 2020 Census is very short and can be completed in 10 minutes. Families should count themselves at the place where they lived and slept on 1 April 2020.

EL families can file their census online, by phone, or by mail. The census can be filled out in 12 difference languages, including Arabic, Spanish, Russian, Mandarin, and Cantonese. There are translated web pages and guides in 57 languages.

How Is the Information Gathered by the 2020 Census Used?

The Census Bureau can only use the information given to produce statistics. Title 13 ensures that private information gathered by Census 2020 is protected by law and answers given cannot be used against respondents by any government agency or court. Despite a controversy in 2019, the 2020 Census does not ask any questions about U.S. citizenship. You won’t see a citizenship question on the 2020 census. After a more than yearlong legal fight, three federal judges are making sure of that by permanently blocking the government from using the census to ask about the U.S. citizenship status of every person living in every household in the country.

How to Teach About the 2020 Census

It’s important that educators of ELs inform and support families to participate in the 2020 Census. The census website provides information, activities, and lesson plans. The teacher section of the website includes lessons about math, history, social studies, geography, sociology, and English. A sample lesson that I liked in the K–12 section was one about languages at home.

What Happens If a Family Does not Respond?

If a family does not respond to a census,  a follow-up will be conducted by census takers that will take place from 11 August–31 October 2020. Census takers will wear masks and have received training on social distancing and other health protocols. If no one is home when census takers visit, they will leave a notice of their visit with information about how to respond online, by phone, or by mail.

About Judie Haynes

Judie Haynes
Judie Haynes taught elementary ESL for 28 years and is the author and coauthor of eight books for teachers of ELs , the most recent being “Teaching to Strengths: Supporting Students Living with Trauma, Violence and Chronic Stress“ with Debbie Zacarian and Lourdes Alvarez-Ortiz. She was a columnist for the TESOL publication "Essential Teacher" and is also cofounder and comoderator of the Twitter Chat for teachers of English learners #ELLCHAT.
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One Response to
2020 Census: What Families of ELs Need to Know

  1. Thanks, Judie Haynes and TESOL, for this explanation about the purpose of the 2020 US Census!

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