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The Journal Gazette

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Tuesday, June 25, 2019 1:00 am

Census debate concerns FWCS

Corona says uncounted children would be costly

ROSA SALTER RODRIGUEZ | The Journal Gazette

With the U.S. Supreme Court expected to hear oral arguments this week on whether a controversial question about citizenship can appear on 2020's census forms, Fort Wayne Community Schools board member Steve Corona reminded fellow members that the schools have a lot to lose if people opt out of being counted.

During Monday night's meeting, Corona said studies have shown that every student who remains uncounted loses the school district just about $1,000 a year. Over the 10 years between counts, that's $10,000, he said.

That means millions of federal dollars could be at stake in districts statewide, he added.

“This is a lot of money on the table for us,” he said. 

Corona wants district officials to participate in the Indiana School Boards Association's “Complete Count” initiative by identifying hard-to-count census districts. Based on the 2010 census experience, he said, “some of them are right here, east of our (administration) building” in the 46803 and surrounding ZIP codes.

Corona also would like to see the school boards' association materials distributed through area schools, if possible, he said.

The census question has become a rallying point for public education.

According to a statement on the National School Boards Association's website, experts say inclusion of the question about whether those responding are citizens of the United States will lead to an undercount of the number of children and families public schools are to serve.

The U.S. Census Bureau projects that the citizenship question will lead to an estimated 5.8% decline in the number of responses from noncitizens. Some independent researchers anticipate the decline would be much higher, with nearly 1 in 10 households – or 45 million people – at risk for not being counted.

The national association filed a friend of the court brief in the case before the Supreme Court.  

After the meeting, Corona said he has asked to be on Mayor Tom Henry's Complete Count committee. He added that the state association of school boards' committee meets today, and he plans to attend by phone.

Corona is surprised that he's heard so little from state government officials about the importance of an accurate census.

“I'm so proud that ISBA is going to be a state organizer of this effort,” Corona said. “We have a lot to lose.”

In other business, the board accepted the state's non-English-speaking program grant for the next school year in the amount of $1.087 million and a similar federal grant for $397,000.

Emily Schwartz Keirns, manager of the English Language Learners program, told the board that the state grant will go for personnel, professional learning and instructional materials and translation.

The federal grant is designated for supplemental instructional materials, professional learning and family engagement activities, she said.

rsalter@jg.net