In recognition of National Hispanic Heritage Month, this blog post comes from Mario Beovides, director of Impact of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund (NALEO).
National Hispanic Heritage Month is officially here, and as we take time to reflect on the numerous contributions made by the Latino community to our wonderfully diverse country, one serious question looms: Are we still being undercounted and underrepresented in American society, despite being the nation’s second largest population group? The short answer is yes, and it is hurting our community, particularly our children who attend our school systems.
A recent report from Child Trends Hispanic Institute and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund revealed that more than 400,000 Latino children — birth to age four — were left uncounted in the 2010 Census. This undercount of Latino children is a direct threat to fair political representation and will adversely affect the allocation of resources for education and other policy priorities. Census data are used to determine the annual allocation of billions of dollars that are crucial to ensuring young Latinos receive the best possible education. Federal programs that depend on an accurate census counts include Head Start, Title I and Title IV of the Every Student Succeeds Act, funds from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act that are targeted to serve the educational needs of children with disabilities, and the National School Lunch Program, to name a few.
School boards and administrators across the nation have successfully utilized census data to evaluate and design programming around the needs of their localities and their students, which led to increased graduation rates and decreased dropout rates. Unfortunately, work is still needed in states where Latinos were unable to benefit as much as they should. The undercount of Latino children in the 2010 Census was heavily concentrated in five states – California, Texas, Florida, Arizona and New York. My home state of Florida relies on more than one billion dollars of census-dependent federal funding for necessary education programs. Approximately $750 million are allocated to Florida for Title I and Title IV programs alone, which help fund low-income and English Learner students.
Nationwide, statistics show that 25 percent of children under the age of five are Latino, and nearly two-thirds of these children live in or near poverty. Any sort of undercount will adversely affect the educational opportunities afforded to these families and students. Given that population trends show the proportion of Latino children in the United States is projected to grow to 33 percent by 2050, making it the nation’s fastest-growing sector of the child population, it is imperative that policymakers at all levels actively work toward ensuring a full and accurate count of Latino families and children.
The 2020 Census is our chance to make strides toward a more accurate and detailed count, but it is already facing some tough obstacles. The Census Bureau currently does not have enough funding to properly conduct its work in 2020, and has made major cuts which will make counting ‘hard to count’ communities like Latinos even more difficult. Despite these obstacles, however, we believe that significant progress can be made in the two years remaining before the 2020 Census. The stakes are too high for the Latino community and nation if we fail.
Please visit http://www.naleo.org/census2020 for more information on the 2020 Census, and how it affects Latinos nationwide and in your state.