Mijares: Participating in the 2020 census is easy, confidential and critically important

In just a few months, you’ll be asked to take on one of democracy’s most considerable responsibilities — and it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes of your time.

As mandated by the U.S. Constitution, the federal Census Bureau conducts a nationwide population count once every 10 years. This is one of the few national activities the American public does together. It’s also easy, confidential and critically important to our students and their communities.

An image of Orange County Superintendent Al MijaresAlong with establishing the number of congressional seats and electoral votes for each state, census data serves as the basis for deciding how approximately $900 billion in federal funds are spent annually, impacting education, housing, public safety and other vital services.

These anonymous statistics also enable local governments to make highly consequential decisions about public safety, including staffing police and fire stations, and they help school districts plan for enrollment shifts.

Meanwhile, businesses rely on census data to open stores, offices and factories that generate new jobs. Real estate developers use these figures to construct new houses and revitalize aging neighborhoods. Residents use the census to support community initiatives.

Despite all that’s at stake, our state is expected to lose about $1,950 per person in annual federal funding as a result of undercounting. But a number of organizations are working to offset those losses by generating awareness in advance of the 2020 count. OCDE is among them, offering workshops for educators along with a social media campaign to help drive home some important points.

For example, we want to spread the word that the 2020 census will be easier than ever. Orange County families will be asked to respond starting in March, and the process should take about 10 minutes. In-person visits will only be made to households that don’t respond online, by phone or by mail.

Another point worth noting is that any information collected by census-takers is confidential and can only be used for anonymous statistical purposes. In fact, every census employee takes an oath to protect your personal information for life.

Completing the census is easy, it’s confidential and it’s mandatory. But it’s more than that. It’s a way for all of us to participate in our democracy, ensuring that Congressional representation and taxpayer-funded resources are distributed equitably over the next decade.

Orange County students and families count. Now let’s make sure they’re counted.