I was fortunate to visit a number of state association conferences this past fall and enjoyed meeting many of the amazing and dedicated school board members and association officers across our great nation.

From the achingly lonely beauty of the Cape in Massachusetts to the cool vibe of Portland, Oregon, from the brilliant fall colors of New York to the first snowfall providing a backdrop, from brilliant fall colors of cherry trees in Michigan to the big city lights and holiday celebration in Chicago, and from the wild beauty and unbelievable topography changes in South Dakota to the balloons over the high desert in New Mexico to the smell of peach cobbler and pecan pie in Georgia, there are so many breathtaking and unbelievable sights in every single region.

However, no matter the difference in the weather or topography, whether rural or urban, at least one thing is the same. In our states and regions, we have committed and dedicated school board members working hard each and every day to help each and every one of America’s public schoolchildren.

So, what is the one big thing we can all do to most help those children whose voices are not often heard and those populations who are often unseen, unknown, or unrepresented? We can help them be counted. Each and every one of the children and each and every one of their relatives deserve to be counted. In 2020, we have the chance and opportunity to make a greater impact on those families and those children and the resources their communities may receive, impacting them into the year 2030.

The children in our classrooms today who are in the second grade will be the graduates of 2030. Their world will look completely different than the world of 2020, but many of their needs will still be the same. We will still need funds for special education, classroom technology, teacher training, school lunch assistance, and after-school programs. What can we, as board members, do to help their voices be heard and their heads be counted? The single most impactful thing we can do to help these children over the next decade is to make sure they are counted this year.

It is no surprise to anyone that there is a census looming in 2020. Why does it matter? What does a full and good count accomplish? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the 2020 count is important to us as school leaders because the count “impacts the federal funds that communities receive each year for programs and services that are critical for schools, students, and younger children.”

Specifically, it helps our schools get appropriate funding for “special education, Head Start, after-school programs, and classroom technology” in addition to “food assistance, including free and reduced-price school lunches.”

The Census Bureau offers a wide array of resources to help us, as school leaders, make sure to educate our public about the importance of an accurate count. It also offers lesson plans and guidance on educating our children about the census. Visit the website at www.census.gov or Google “Census 2020 why it matters.” For more information on what districts are doing to help with the census counts, read ASBJ’s December feature, “Full Count,” at https://www.nsba.org/ASBJ/2019/December/Full-Count.

Studies have shown that the 2010 census missed about 1 million children under 5 years old. This is frightening data because other studies have shown that for each person missed in the 2010 census, the community lost an average of $3,000 per person per year for 10 years (until the next census). That is a huge impact on services in our communities.

What can you do for 2020? Make it one of your New Year’s resolutions to assist government with an accurate count of your community. Educate your schools, your parents, your children, and your community. Make sure every voice and every child not only count in your schools but also are counted!

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Originally signed into law in 1975, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the main federal statute governing special education for children. Today, IDEA protects the rights of over six million students with disabilities (approximately 13.5 percent of students) to receive a Free Appropriate Public Education in the least restrictive environment. NSBA urges the federal government to modernize and fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Act. We've recently launched a new initiative to highlight this critical need and help ensure our country’s students with disabilities receive the access and supports they need to succeed.

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NSBA today announced that Stuart “Chip” Slaven has joined the association as Chief Advocacy Officer. Slaven will lead the Federal Advocacy & Public Policy group, which represents state school board associations and their members before the U.S. Congress and the Administration. Slaven is a government relations veteran who brings passion and extensive experience to drive our vision for public education forward.