Lawton’s Census Week: The impact on education

Lawton's Census Week: The impact on education

LAWTON, Okla. (TNN) - The clock is ticking for people to fill out the 2020 Census. The deadline to complete the form is September 30, and as of Monday, only 55.5% of Lawton has signed up.

Filling out the 2020 Census to reflect Lawton’s population will help our students for years to come, both within Lawton Public Schools and Cameron University. If information submitted to the Census does not reflect our true numbers, it could cause some problems down the line.

”If we don’t accurately get our Census filled out, we could lose millions of dollars a year, or tens of millions over the course of the next 10 years based off that data,” said Lawton Public Schools Superintendent, Kevin Hime.

As a Title 1 school district, LPS relies tremendously on federal funding. From reading programs to textbooks and after-school programs, it’s all covered in the dollars we pay in federal taxes. And it’s crucial we get that money back.

”The federal dollars are just as important to a school,” said Hime. “We probably get $10 million a year in federal dollars which is about 10% of our total budget. That’s where you get your extra.”

Not to mention, without an accurate Census count, Lawtonians within the school district could find themselves misrepresented on the school board.

”When this data is done, we’ll have to redraw the school board districts to make sure each school board member is representing the same number of people,” said Hime. “You want to make sure each school is equally represented on the school board.”

As for Cameron University, the benefits of an accurate count go to financially disadvantaged students, starting with the Pell Grant Program. In recent years, there’s been an increasing reliance on the program to pay for a student’s education.

”This year, roughly half of our undergrad student body will take a Pell Grant to help pay for those expenses,” said Keith Mitchell, the Senior Director for Public Affairs at Cameron University.

If you’re thinking that has no effect on those who aren’t enrolled in Cameron, think again.

”Lawton and surrounding communities benefit from it because those students use that money to pay for housing, utilities, food & transportation,” Mitchell said.

Federal funding for Cameron doesn’t just help current students. The Open Doors and Upward Bound Programs are designed to help disadvantaged high school students.

”We have to apply for those funds and we rely very heavily on Census data to put together our application,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell adds an accurate count will also show where the economy is headed and what jobs are needed. Universities use that data to determine what programs need to be offered in order to benefit the local economy.

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