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Budget & Finance

Education Advocates to SCOTUS: Leave Citizenship Out of Census

By Alyson Klein — March 29, 2019 1 min read
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Next month, the Supreme Court will hear a case determining whether it’s okay for the Trump administration’s Census Bureau to include a question about citizenship on the Census 2020 form.

The message to SCOTUS from a group of education advocacy organizations: Don’t let it happen.

The KIPP Foundation, a charter network; Advocates for Children of New York, a non-profit working on behalf of disadvantaged students; the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, an advocacy organization for urban communities; and UnidosUS, which works on behalf of Latinos, sent an amicus (or “friend of the court”) brief to the Supreme Court arguing that a citizenship question would “exacerbate the undercount that already plagues immigrant communities of color.”

Essentially, the organizations argue that asking a question about citizenship will disaude people in immigrant communities from responding to the census, potentially leaving their schools with fewer resources. The Trump administration, however, contends the question is necessary to enforce the Voting Rights Act.

Why is this a big deal for schools? Data from the census, which is taken every 10 years, are used—along with a myriad of other data—to help determine how the government doles out two biggest pots of federal money for K-12 schools: Title I aid for disadvantaged students, which receives $15.8 billion in fiscal 2018, and special education grants to states, which gets about $12.3 billion. The numbers may also impact state and local funding in some areas. But importantly, the 10-year census count isn’t the only factor used to figure out how much money schools get. (Great explainer from my colleague, Andrew Ujifusa, here.)

Still, education organizations are worried.

“The citizenship question in the 2020 census will have a chilling effect on immigrant communities across the country,” said Richard Barth, the CEO of the KIPP Foundation, in a statement. “At a time when students from low-income communities still face significant barriers to college and career success, it’s critically important they receive the funding and resources they need. Ensuring an accurate census is one of the most fundamental steps we take as a nation towards educational equity.”

Want more? Great background on the upcoming Supreme Court case from my colleague, Mark Walsh.

Image by Stephanie Shafer for Education Week