May 18, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Joe Dorman, CEO – Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy
Telephone: (405) 833-1117
Contact: Mike Fina, Executive Director – Oklahoma Municipal League
Telephone: (405) 528-7515
OICA to Coordinate with Oklahoma Municipal League to Start “Census Community Clash” Among Schools, Cities
OKLAHOMA CITY – There are countless community and school rivalries across Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) and Oklahoma Municipal League (OML) are seeking to use those rivalries for a good cause: completing Census forms.
“Spring sports were canceled, and there is a chance fall sports will be delayed,” said Joe Dorman, CEO of OICA. “The ‘Census Community Clash’ among schools and communities will put the traditional sports rivalries toward completing Census forms. In the end, winning this contest will pay dividends to communities for a decade.”
Currently, Oklahoma City and Tulsa have a competition going on between the cities’ two mayors, David Holt in Oklahoma City and G.T. Bynum in Tulsa and both communities are performing above the national average of the states.
“Rivalries in our state can be for anything, as Bedlam has proven,” said Mike Fina, executive director of the Oklahoma Municipal League. “That is why we encourage smaller communities with some of the lowest Census response rates to participate. They can ‘keep score’ by providing updates through local newspapers and radio stations, as well as social media during this friendly competition.”
The U.S. Census is entering a new phase in the effort to count every American. Census staff is visiting communities, leaving information on doors of those who have not responded to the Census. This effort is particularly crucial in Oklahoma as the state is lagging behind national averages for Census form completion. Census figures show the Oklahoma self-response rate at an anemic 53.2 percent, a full 6.3% behind the national average.
“Oklahoma continues to slip farther behind the national average,” said Dorman, who noted OICA has taken on the task of helping encourage response to the Census. “Only a few weeks ago, Oklahoma was about five percentage points behind the national average. If this trend continues, with an average of $1,700 per person per year of federal funds coming to our state based on census counts, Oklahoma stands to lose hundreds of millions of federal tax dollars that would go to important assets like schools, hospitals, and transportation.”
Because of that, and the fact that Oklahoma is re-opening earlier from the COVID-19 pandemic, Oklahoma is one of the first states in the nation to see Census workers’ “boots on the ground.”
Oklahomans who have Census paperwork delivered to their home should submit the confidential responses through the mail or via the Internet. Doing so is the only way to ensure the U.S. Census gets a complete count of Oklahomans.
The Census is required by the U.S. Constitution to ensure the nation has an accurate count of its residents and provide funding for programs. That would be the case for the ten years between now and the next Census in 2030. The money is tax dollars Oklahomans have paid help fund children’s health insurance and other vital programs. Without an accurate count, Dorman said, Oklahomans’ tax dollars will go to other states with bigger Census counts.
Many smaller communities across the state do not have mail delivery to physical addresses; therefore, residents in those towns have not received Census forms in the mail. With in-person delivery now happening, Oklahoma’s rural communities can finally engage and improve their response rates. In turn, this will help the children of the state, Fina noted.
“Adding a friendly element of competition to Census responses, creating ‘bragging rights’ would in a small way, fill the gap of traditional sports rivalries,” Dorman said. “From my days as a state representative, I loved the sports rivalries between communities in my district: rivalries between Apache and Rush Springs, Cement and Cyril, or Cache versus Elgin.
Brent Kisling, executive director of the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, said the rivalries can be the basis for a contest that will provide tangible benefits to our communities and the rest of the state. “There are no losers in these census rivalries, everyone wins when we improve our Census response rate,” he said. “These small towns may compete in the gym, but they all go to the same hospitals, use the same roads, and depend on the same infrastructure to make Oklahoma a great place to live.”
OICA is working with the Oklahoma Municipal League to do outreach to each community, along with school officials across the state, to encourage this competition through the school systems and announce the winner at the next rivalry game after the completion of the US Census count. OICA is working to provide a cash prize to the school in the community with the most improved count from the numbers recorded on May 16.
You can follow progress at https://2020census.gov/en/response-rates.html by clicking the “Rankings Here” link above the map. Free Oklahoma specific marketing materials and information can be found at the “OK Let’s Count” Census Website at https://okletscount.org/.
“Parents must remember that children are equally important for the count,” Dorman said. “The zero to five age group is traditionally the group with the lowest percentage count in past censuses.
“Every person, especially children, is worth the ten minutes it takes to fill out the Census. If we fail, we will shortchange an entire generation of Oklahoma’s children by not having the resources to support schools, parks, and healthcare that is so important to their futures.”