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Census 2020: Your Senator Needs to Hear from You

Census 2020: Your Senator Needs to Hear from You

The Census Bureau has announced that it will terminate data collection at the end of September, rather than at the end of October as previously announced.

This change increases the likelihood that the 37 percent of residents who have not yet responded to the 2020 Census will not be counted. Those who have not yet responded are members of hard-to-count populations: rural residents, persons with low or no income, members of ethnic and racial minorities, persons with limited proficiency in English, and persons with low levels of educational attainment.

To be sure our adult learners and their families and communities are counted, we need Census 2020 data collection to continue through October 31.

The House-passed COVID-19 bill (the HEROES Act) provided for the October 31 deadline, but this extension is missing from the Senate’s COVID-19 bill. We must ensure that the COVID relief package, under discussion this week, includes language that will extend the 2020 Census deadline to ensure an accurate count.

What you can do:

  1. Encourage your adult learners to complete the Census right away themselves and to promote Census completion in their communities, online (my2020census.gov), by phone (1-844-330-2020), or on paper. It’s the best way to ensure support, accountability, and political representation for the community and its members.
  2. Call your Senators this week, while they are debating the Senate COVID-19 relief bill.

The Census Counts campaign has set up a toll-free patch-through line at 1-888-374-4269. When you call, you’ll be asked to provide your zip code. You’ll hear a pre-recording with details on what to say, and then be patched through to your Senator’s office.

Here’s a script for what to say to the staffer who takes your call:

Hi, my name is _______ and I am your constituent from (City and State). I am calling to ask the Senator NOT to cut the 2020 Census short and to extend the reporting deadline so the Census Bureau has the time it needs to count everyone. A rushed census results in an inaccurate representation of the country. Thank you for your time. 

You can also ask the Senator to sign on to Senator Schatz’ bipartisan letter to leadership asking for the deadline extensions in the next coronavirus package. Senators who wish to sign on should contact Trelaine Ito in Senator Schatz’s office, trlaine_ito@schatz.senate.gov.

3. Share this information and encourage others to contact their Senators too. Census Counts is particularly interested in outreach to these four Senators:

  • Senator Richard Shelby in Alabama
  • Senator Dan Sullivan in Alaska
  • Senator Martha McSally in Arizona
  • Senator Susan Collins in Maine

However, everyone is encouraged to participate in this effort – every Senator is important, and every constituent voice counts!

Thank you for all you do to provide and promote opportunities, resources, and representation for our adult learners and their communities.

ICYMI: Virtual Forum on Adult Learners and Covid-19

ICYMI: Virtual Forum on Adult Learners and Covid-19

On June 4, National Skills Coalition, the National Coalition for Literacy (NCL), and the Coalition for Adult Basic Education (COABE) collaborated to provide a virtual forum on the challenges that the pandemic environment and related policy decisions are creating for adult learners. The forum focused on adult educators’ ideas and concerns and introduced ways they could connect with policy makers and others to advocate for their learners and their programs.

Presenters were Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, Jessica Cardott, and Katie Spiker from NSC; Sharon Bonney from COABE; and Deborah Kennedy from NCL. Read a summary of the forum content on NSC’s blog, or listen to the entire forum on NSC’s Youtube channel here. The forum is part of NSC’s #SkillstoRecover series.

Don’t Miss This Opportunity to Build Digital Capacity

Don’t Miss This Opportunity to Build Digital Capacity

By Deborah Kennedy, president, National Coalition for Literacy

Adult education and family literacy providers throughout the country are well aware of the effects of gaps in digital capability on both their programs and their program participants. These gaps are evident at multiple levels:

  • Infrastructure: Availability of broadband has increased over time, but differences persist. The Pew Research Center notes that, in general, “roughly three-quarters of American adults have broadband internet service at home,” but “adoption gaps remain based on factors such as age, income, education and community type. …Home broadband adoption varies across demographic groups. Racial minorities, older adults, rural residents, and those with lower levels of education and income are less likely to have broadband service at home.”
  • Individuals: Large disparities remain between those who are proficient in the use of technology and those who are not. A recent release from the National Skills Coalition connects this disparity with larger inequities. “Digital literacy includes both the capacity to use technology and the cognitive skills necessary to navigate it successfully. But a startling one-third of American workers lack these vital digital skills. …Due to longstanding inequities, workers of color are over-represented among those with limited or no digital skills. For example, Black workers comprise 12 percent of overall workers, but represent 15 percent of the subset of workers who have no digital skills and 21 percent of those with limited skills. Latino workers (who may be of any race) are 14 percent of overall workers, but represent a full 35 percent of workers with no digital skills, and 20 percent of those with limited skills.”
  • Programs: Programs vary widely in their approaches to providing digital skills training, to using distance learning to increase their reach, and to providing professional development in technology-mediated approaches to instruction for adult education practitioners. These variations stem from different states’ policies on distance learning and professional development, as well as from differences in the financial and infrastructure capacities of different program contexts (for example, community college based versus CBO based).

These disparities have gained new prominence in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the nation’s workforce. As a recent paper on digital fluency from the National Skills Coalition notes,

Many laid-off workers are scrambling to identify how they can regroup and re-engage in a labor market that has shifted overnight, and one in which the traditional solution of “going back to school” for additional training has been complicated by a rapid shift to online-only learning. Many training providers are ill-equipped to match demand for remote learning, and many are not ready at all to shift to online or technology-enabled programs. Even more critically, the rapid shift to online or technology-enabled learning means that workers with no or few digital skills — already at a disadvantage in the labor market — may not be able to effectively participate in training and earn the credentials they need to reconnect to work. Similarly, those workers still employed are facing significant new demands to build technology-related skills — across all industries and sectors — as digital tools enabling remote work are the single thread tethering them to continued employment.

Notably, with the passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act on March 27, the adult education field gained an opportunity to begin to address these challenges. The CARES Act includes nearly $3 billion for the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEERF), a formula grant program that allows governors to provide emergency support to any education-related entity within the state that the governor deems essential for carrying out emergency education services to students. Activities conducted under the umbrella of the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, including technology integration activities, are specifically included in the allowable uses.

The Department of Education has made the funds available to governors as of April 14, so adult education practitioners should act now to ensure that adult learners and adult education programs are included in their governor’s funding priorities, with a particular focus on building technology capacity. Here’s what to do:

  • Understand that the funds will be available through your state’s governor’s office, not directly from the Department of Education.
  • Governors are likely to appoint a committee or task force to establish priorities and processes for allocating funding. Contact your governor’s office to advocate for inclusion of a representative of the adult education community on that task force or committee. Reference the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund specifically.
  • Remind the governor and other decisionmakers that integration of technology is a key aspect of WIOA and that digital literacy is called out as an essential element of workforce preparation. Use OCTAE’s Integrating Technology in WIOA guidance to stress this.
  • Note that both Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai are strongly promoting the use of GEER funding for technology-related purposes.
  • Develop a set of priorities and plans that would work best in your context, with related cost projections. Include everything you can think of that would make technology-enabled instruction more available and accessible to your adult learners. Here are a few possibilities:
    • Internet access points such as wifi hotspots in parking lots that adult learners can use from their cars to maintain social distancing
    • Provision of electronic devices (tablets, laptops) with relevant software already loaded
    • Acquisition of software/platform licenses
    • Professional development for teachers and staff
    • Staff time for online materials and activities development
    • Teacher/staff compensation for one-on-one phone tutoring with adult learners

You want to be ready when the governor’s office invites you to submit a request!


Resources

Applying a racial equity lens to digital literacy: How workers of color are affected by digital skill gaps. National Skills Coalition, March 20, 2020.

Broadband and student performance gaps. Policy Brief 01-20. Quello Center at Michigan State University, March 23, 2020.

Mary Freeman and Vickie Choitz. Why adult foundational skills matter now more than ever. Corporation for a Skilled Workforce, April 27, 2020.

Integrating technology in WIOA. OCTAE, March 24, 2015.

Leticia Lewis and Molly Bashay. Digital fluency for a resilient economy. National Skills Coalition, April 21, 2020.

Judy Mortrude. Is your state planning for an equitable digital future? EdTech Center at World Education, February 13, 2020.

How does the Census affect health care for adult learners?

How does the Census affect health care for adult learners?

By Cynthia Macleay Campbell, Ed.D.

Why should adult learners complete the Census? Because their health may depend on it!

People who work with adult learners are all too aware of the health challenges that adult learners face. Typical examples include the need for

  • Health screenings and preventive care
  • Eyeglasses
  • Diabetes medication and education
  • Addiction treatment
  • Mental health care
  • Dental care
  • Help with quitting smoking or fighting obesity

These and other health challenges often affect adult learners’ ability to attend and persist in education programs – and research has shown that persistence for 100 hours or more is the key to achievement of educational and career goals such as high school completion and upskilling.

Adult learners are also among the people with the most difficulty in accessing health care and health information. They may encounter practitioners who are not sensitive to their culture or able to speak their language. In short, they are on the wrong side of the health disparities in the United States, where certain groups have worse health outcomes than others.

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) funds multiple public health programs that bridge these disparities. They include

  • Grants to help people from minority groups and disadvantaged communities train to be health workers in their communities. This helps increase the numbers of practitioners who can relate to patients in culturally appropriate ways.
  • Medicaid and Medicare.
  • Block grants for Community Mental Health Services
  • Block Grants for the Prevention and Treatment of Substance Abuse
  • Health Center Programs (Community Health Centers, Migrant Health Centers, Health Care for the Homeless, and Public Housing Primary Care)
  • Telehealth services, where people can call in for health information.
  • Training in General, Pediatric, and Public Health Dentistry
  • Development and Coordination of Rural Health Services

What does the Census have to do with these health equity and public health efforts? The funding that comes to each local community to support them is determined by the Census count for that community. Without an accurate count, adult learners may have further struggles to obtain the health services and supports they need to flourish.

For further reading:

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