The Census is important for Kansas schools

By Rob Gilligan 

Every 10 years, the federal government through the efforts of the U.S. Census Bureau attempts to accurately count everyone living in the United States. This massive undertaking has taken place every decade since the first count held in 1790 and led by Thomas Jefferson. The information collected through the decennial census provides a wealth of knowledge and information, much of which is used by KASB in developing reports and information for our members. 

While there are certainly countless applications of Census data in both academic and commercial research, there are four key functions of the Census that affect public policy and voting in the United States, which in turn affects schools: 

  1. Reapportionment
  2. Redistricting 
  3. Demographic data
  4. Government resource allocation

Reapportionment is the process of re-distributing seats in the House of Representatives according to the population in each state. While each state gets two seats in the U.S. Senate, each state is given a certain number of House seats based on its population; and every state is guaranteed at least one seat by the constitution, regardless of how many people live in that state. 

Since 1930 Congress has used the “method of equal proportions.” This formula takes a state’s population and divides it by the mean number of that state’s current number of House seats and the next seat (the square root of n[n-1]). This formula takes the remainders among the states and allocates them in such a way as to provide the smallest difference between any pair of states in a district, and in the number of people assigned to each representative. 

Kansas has had as many as eight Congressional Districts at one time, slowly losing seats through the Reapportionment process after the Census held in 1930, 1940, 1960, and most recently losing our fifth Congressional seat following the 1990 census. While Kansas is expected to maintain four districts following the 2020 Census, as populations shift it is possible that Kansas may only have three congressional districts in the not too distant future. 

Redistricting. The terms “reapportionment” and “redistricting” are often used interchangeably, though the two terms are, in fact, very different. Reapportionment and redistricting are both important in the choosing of congressional representatives. How they differ is in what, exactly, that they divide. While reapportionment refers to reassigning the number of House representatives each state may have, redistricting draws boundaries within each state for voting and representation, after reapportionment has taken place. 

The redistricting process in Kansas will occur in the Spring of 2022, led by a joint committee of the Legislature that will be charged with making maps of districts for our four congressional districts, 40 Kansas Senate Districts, 10 State Board of Education Districts that are made up of four senate districts, and finally 125 House of Representative districts. This process has traditionally been very controversial and charges of gerrymandering, or manipulating the maps to benefit one political party, will often be discussed. 

Demographic Data refers to data that is statistically socio-economic in nature such as population, race, income, education and employment, which represent specific geographic locations and are often associated with time. For example, when referring to population demographic data, we have characteristics such as area population, population growth or birthrate, ethnicity, density and distribution. With regard to employment, we have employment and unemployment rates, which can be related further to gender and ethnicity. 

Businesses use census data to decide where to build factories, offices and stores, and this creates jobs. Developers use the census to build new homes and revitalize old neighborhoods. Local governments use the census for public safety and emergency preparedness. Residents use the census to support community initiatives involving legislation, quality-of-life and consumer advocacy. 

KASB as well as other school advocates utilize the data collected through the census to better understand and identify the population that we are serving in Kansas. Having accurate information about our communities helps schools to better plan for serving both our current student population, as well as future students that will be coming into the district. 

Government resource allocation refers to over $675 billion per year that is allocated throughout the nation with help from census data, including programs such as public health, education and infrastructure. State and local funds are often distributed based on population, meaning that every person is important when advocating for funding. The strength of census statistics and data also helps inform many public policy proposals at all levels of government. 

In fiscal year 2016, Kansas received $6,054,507,586 through 55 federal spending programs that were guided by data derived from the 2010 Census. This included over $109 million in Title 1 Grants to schools, almost $110 million in IDEA Special Education funding, approximately $20 million in Vocational Rehabilitation Grants, $18 million in Supporting Effective Instruction Grants and a little more than $10 million in Career and Technical Education Grants. In addition to the education support, many federal programs support and assist many of the same families that are part of our school system. 

While Census 2020 will officially start the count in March of next year, Census Bureau staff are already working in our communities to prepare for the upcoming count. Census Address Canvassing operation began on Aug. 4, and Census Bureau Address Canvassers are out in Kansas Communities. Local law enforcement agencies have been informed.

How to Identify a Census Bureau Employee:

All Census Bureau employees have a valid U.S. Census Bureau ID badge.  If you are unsure, call the regional office for Kansas/Oklahoma in Denver at 1-800-852-6159

The Census Bureau NEVER asks for: 

  • Your full Social Security number 
  • Money or donations 
  • Anything on behalf of a political party or campaign 
  • Your full bank or credit card account number 
  • Your mother’s maiden name 

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