The Census is a tool for communities to gain proper representation and funding for resources. As a queer young woman of color, I can attest to the funding shortcomings that the LGBT community and students in Dallas ISD face due to undercounting in the 2010 Census.
We have been told multiple times that the number of people in a community counted yields funding for community programs and resources. The Census allocates billions of dollars every year based on what the government knows about the communities on the Census- leaving LGBT community severely underfunded. Without clear knowledge of the size of and needs of our community. The National LGBTQ Task Force has been fighting for LGBT representation in the Census since the 1990s in hopes of capturing the size of our community; however, the only option for representation in the 2020 Census is through the counting of same-sex couples. Thus, severely undercounting the community by ignoring those that aren’t in a relationship. Moreover it still does not account for sexual orientation or gender identity.
If the LGBT community were to be counted there would be funding for support programs. Living in Oak Lawn has granted me access to the Resource Center that offers a broad range of resources. According to their Financial 2019 Audit Report, their total programming expenses for their services comes to a total of $10,806,510. They are located no more than a 6 min drive from my home and offer free youth services. They offer a safe space for youth to hang out and have access to a food pantry. Furthermore, each week they offer activities for LGBT youth to socialize and host a free “Family Dinner” on Fridays. These programs help young people navigate their sexual and gender identity, both emotionally and physically. This type of programming is almost exclusively offered only in the LGBT hub of Dallas. However, such a program is needed all over Dallas. Getting counted in the Census is a medium for better distribution and access of LGBT resources in Dallas. To start receiving funding for such resources, our community must start by not allowing our community to be erased by the census.
In the same manner, it is also vital to consider the inequitable distribution of resources among different schools. We talk about how some schools get more enrichment programs to better prepare students for college. The funding brought by the Census is essential in supporting programs ranging from free and reduced lunch to classroom technology, affecting the programs accessible to students and teachers while enhancing the quality of education no matter where one lives. All of these factors are significant determinants of success for students and being counted in the Census indicates how money is allocated to fund opportunities for students. The constant undercounting has left many of our neighborhoods underfunded. According to the PeopleNewspaper’s article on the 2020 Census challenge, every 1% undercount yields approximately a $40 million annual loss for the county. In the last Census, 50,000 Dallas children under 6 were undercounted. Thus leaving Dallas ISD to figure out a tight budget for a growing number of students. As a student from Irma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School, I recognize the privilege our school holds as we receive additional resource from the Young Women’s Leadership School (college-bound advisor, summer college programs, scholarships, etc.) and start the college mindset and exploration as early as sixth grade. I’ve seen how those resources open the door for our academic success, personal development and leadership skills.
The reality of underfunded education is that it yields a more challenging environment for students to flourish. I’ve had conversations about these issues with friends that attend other schools. The feedback reflected the limits they saw in their own schools. Whereas their access to SAT/ACT prep is limited and there are only a few staff members to help +400 students. There was a high emphasis on the idea that “in a school where teachers pass you to not have to deal with you for another year, students get very discouraged and do not always know whether they want to go to college until their senior year,” reiterating the significance of funding in education. This funding can be funneled through getting a more accurate count on the Census so that our budget reflects the need.
We have an abundance of ideas on programs and resources that could empower our communities. However, the funding needed to get it done relies on our communities getting counted. There is still time to assure that your community gets a voice by filling out the 2020 Census.
Texas Women’s Foundation supports amplifying the voices of women. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and not to the organization.
María Fernanda López is a current senior at Irma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School and a current Fellow of Texas Women’s Foundation Young Women’s Advisory Council.