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Train Your Adult Learners as Census Ambassadors

Train Your Adult Learners as Census Ambassadors

A full and accurate decennial Census count depends on good communication that encourages everyone to participate. Participation is critical because an undercount would have a big impact on adult education programs and on adult learners’ communities. As trusted community members, adult learners can be extremely effective messengers who provide information, promote Census completion, and clarify points of confusion or misinformation.

Participate in a Census Ambassador Train-the-Trainer Program

You can multiply the effects of your own messaging about the Census by providing Census Ambassador training for your adult learners. This trainer training program will show you how! The program includes a sequence of two webinars and a moderated community of practice.

In the first webinar, March 11, 2:00-3:00 eastern time, you will receive step-by-step instructions and all the materials you need to lead your learners and staff through a Census Ambassador training. You’ll be able to choose between two ways of carrying out the training: teacher-led in the classroom, and program-wide, with a staff person leading the training for all interested staff and learners.

As a participant in the first webinar, you will also be enrolled in a facilitated online community of practice. The CoP will allow you to pose questions to the trainer and share challenges, solutions, and effective practices with your colleagues.

The second webinar, April 15, 2:00-3:00 eastern time, will summarize lessons learned and provide a platform for you to ask questions and share strategies and successes.

Please plan on attending both webinars. There is no cost for this training, but you must register! If you can’t make one or both of the webinars, please register anyway, and we will send you a link to the recording of the webinar, as well as a copy of the slides. 

March 11 at 2:00 eastern — register here
April 15 at 2:00 eastern — register here

Encourage Your Learners to Become Census Ambassadors

As adult educators, we have a chance to share important information with our learners, so they can decide how to participate in this pivotal moment.  Census Ambassadors are able to speak knowledgeably about the Census and share why it matters. They are able to do the following:

  • Understand and explain the basics of the U.S. Census — what it is, why we do it, and how it affects our communities
  • Answer basic questions about the census questionnaire, such as Do I have to fill it out? Do I have to answer all the questions? Does it include questions about citizenship or immigration status? 
  • Develop their leadership and speaking and listening skills by following through on the task of recruiting at least 10 people to take the Pledge to be Counted.
  • Earn debit card prizes if they recruit at least 50 people to take the Pledge to be Counted.
  • Receive a certificate acknowledging their role as a Census Ambassador
  • Add this volunteer work and associated skills to their resume

Take the Pledge To Be Counted!

Individual teachers, tutors, and staff, take the Pledge To Be Counted.

Census Ambassadors, take the Pledge To Be Counted.

Adult learners and others, take the Pledge To Be Counted.

How do I know that an ad or mailing is really from the Census Bureau?

How do I know that an ad or mailing is really from the Census Bureau?

You pick up your mail and see an envelope or postcard that says “Census” on it. Or you’re scrolling through your Facebook feed and see an ad that says “Census.” How can you tell that it’s really about the 2020 Census?

Organizations that are not part of the Census Bureau might use the word “Census” on ads and mailings to try to get your attention or trick you. Don’t fall for it! Here are some tips from the Census Bureau:

If you receive a survey or a letter in the mail from the Census Bureau, the envelope contains information that will help you verify its legitimacy. For example:
“U.S. Census Bureau” in the return address, or “U.S. Department of Commerce,” which is the Census Bureau’s parent agency.
Jeffersonville, IN in the return address. The Census Bureau has a mail processing center located there.

Households will receive an invitation in the mail to complete the 2020 Census online, by phone, or by mail. The enclosed envelope to mail back a completed paper questionnaire will be addressed to Jeffersonville, IN, or Phoenix, AZ.

The Census Bureau specifically asks organizations and businesses not to use words or images that might confuse people. Here is the Bureau’s request letter.

An example: You may have heard that Facebook decided yesterday to remove some presidential campaign ads. The ads were considered misleading because they used the word “Census.” Here are some news reports on what happened:

New York Times article
Reuters article
Associated Press article
Bloomberg News article

How does the Census affect children’s education?

How does the Census affect children’s education?

By Cynthia Macleay Campbell, Ed.D.
Gold Apple Services

Why should over 1.5 million adult learners care about the census? Because their children’s education depends on it!

Teachers of adult English language learners in local programs often ask new students why they want to take English classes. Most people give one of two answers: to advance in their jobs or to help their children with their education. As they work hard to attain more education for themselves, adult learners want to see their children get the best education possible in their local schools.

Adult learners probably know that along with regular classes, schools provide

  • Special education
  • English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) instruction
  • After school programs
  • School breakfasts and school lunches

However, adult learners may not truly understand that along with local funding from property taxes, local schools receive money from the federal government, including

  • Support for education in rural communities.
  • Funding for schools in high poverty areas: this is key, as according to the Census Bureau 29 percent of adult learners live below the poverty line, which means their children do as well.
  • Twenty-First Century Community Learning Centers: schools that serve certain struggling rural and urban areas. Along with daily classes, these schools also provide extra academic support and enrichment activities for students and educational programs for parents.
  • Volunteers in Service to America (VISTAs) who often provide tutoring in reading and other support to school children.

What do all these federal funding streams have in common? The amount that each school receives is determined by the Census count in the community. Yet adults with low educational attainment, minorities, and non-native speakers of English are often undercounted in the Census, as are children under five. And this is a problem!

Imagine adult learners and their children’s experience with their local schools if the Census has an undercount of their community’s children. Some potential scenarios:

  • Not enough teachers. Adult learners’ children could face more crowded classrooms and receive less attention and help from their teachers. ESOL students may not have enough ESOL teachers. Students with learning differences will have fewer special education teachers. Without enough teachers, children of adult learners likely will fall behind and stay behind.
  • Fewer Twenty-First Century Community Learning Centers that provide the “wrap around” services that help both children and parents advance in their education and economic opportunities.
  • Not enough funding for school lunches and breakfasts, so that schools would have to offer either less food or lower quality food.

However, adult learners are not just concerned about school-age children. They also need support for preschool children, such as childcare, preschool, and Head Start, especially as many are single parents. Again, the federal funding for these programs is determined by the Census count in their communities. A Census undercount will mean fewer choices for affordable or free care or education for very young children.

Adult learners come to adult literacy and English language programs to build better lives for themselves and their families. As the Census is conducted only once every 10 years, all children, including young children and infants, need to be counted now. This way, when a newborn is ready to enter Head Start in three years or elementary school in five years, the local schools can be better prepared to meet the child’s need. In short, adult learners participating in the Census will help their children’s schools be as well-equipped as possible to educate their children.  

So, one reason why adult learners should complete the Census is that their children are counting on an accurate count for their education!

For further reading:

Poverty rates by education level:

Overview of why an accurate Census count matters for schools:

Share with adult learners:        

Flyers for parents of school-aged children in multiple languages:

Fact sheets, in English and Spanish, about counting young children:

How does the Census affect housing in my community?

How does the Census affect housing in my community?

By Deborah Kennedy
President, National Coalition for Literacy

The Census population count has a major effect on the availability and quality of affordable housing in your community, whether you live in a city or in a rural area. Affordable housing in turn can have major effects on health, education, economic mobility, and equity for all.

How does the federal government support affordable housing?

Through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. government provides housing support for low income people all over the country. You may be familiar with some of these programs. They include rental housing programs such as Housing Choice (also known as Section 8); supportive housing programs for veterans, the elderly, and persons with disabilities; rural rental housing programs; and many others.

In a report called A Place to Call Home, the Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding says this about federal housing programs:

While decent, accessible housing remains unavailable or unaffordable for far too many today, the affordable housing crisis would be significantly worse without the federal investments provided by the HUD and USDA’s Rural Housing Service (RHS). In the past 20 years alone, HUD has provided housing assistance to more than 35 million households. Without the opportunity that HUD provided, many of these families would be homeless, living in substandard or overcrowded conditions, or unable to afford other basic necessities because so much of their income is spent on rent.

This graphic shows the amounts and types of federal rental assistance.

Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Why is housing assistance important?

When individuals and families have housing assistance, they are able to spend more of their income on food and health care. For example, the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign’s Health & Housing Infographic notes that “in 2011, families living in affordable housing spent nearly five times more on health care and one third more on food compared to their severely cost-burdened peers.” The result is better overall health for both children and adults.

Housing assistance also increases housing stability, meaning that individuals and families are able to remain in place rather than moving frequently because they are unable to pay the rent or have no place of their own. Having stable housing means that children are able to attend school consistently, adults have predictable ways to travel to and from work, and families can make connections and become part of a larger community. In Policy Basics: Public Housing, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities summarizes this way:

By limiting housing costs, public housing leaves families with more resources for work expenses like child care and transportation (as well as basic needs like food and medicine). For frail seniors and people with disabilities, public housing enables them to remain in their home communities and avoid or delay moving into nursing homes or other institutions that are much more costly for state and federal governments.

What does this have to do with the Census?

The U.S. government uses a formula to decide how much money for housing assistance will go to each state. The formula uses information about the size of a state’s population and the number of people living in different types of housing – and that information comes from the decennial Census. (Other information for the formula comes from the American Community Survey and the American Housing Survey, which are also administered by the Census Bureau.)

If people do not complete the Census form or do not list all of the people living in a residence,

  • The overall Census count for their community is lower than it should be
  • The count of how many people are living in each type of housing is not accurate

As a result, their state may not receive its fair share of federal funding to address the housing needs of its people.

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