Herald JournalHerald Journal, Nov. 8, 2004

Volunteers help schools count children for census numbers

By Jenni Sebora

In late summer, before a new school year begins, residents in all the communities receive a mailing asking them to fill out a school census form.

But what is this information used for?

School districts are required to file their census numbers of children between zero and five years of age with the state by Nov. 1 each year.

This information is extremely important because this determines future funding for school districts and is used for things such as operating levies, Lester Prairie Principal Pam Lukens said.

“It is important that the numbers be accurate,” Lukens said.

This can be a big task, as there is no set procedure to obtain the census numbers. School districts urge families to complete the census forms yearly because this is used for future funding.

Strategies that the Lester Prairie school district uses and relies on are pre-registration mailings that go out prior to school starting for the year. At its annual open house, Lester Prairie Schools has a census booth to encourage families to complete census information.

Lester Prairie has a community member, presently Elaine Briesemeister, who also helps with gathering census information. Briesemeister has been helping with the Lester Prairie school census for approximately five years.

One strategy Briesemeister uses is to contact the various daycare providers in the community to get the census information. In addition, if she sees a family with small children, she isn’t hesitant about approaching them to inquire about census information

“She has her pulse on this information,” Lukens said of Briesemeister.

The Lester Prairie school district has also contacted the post office and city hall to obtain the addresses of new families that have moved into the district, but this information cannot be dispersed because it is confidential, Lukens said.

Children are required to have pre-school screening completed between three and one-half and four and one-half years of age, prior to them starting school. The census information is used to contact families regarding these screenings also.

It is easier for smaller districts than larger districts. Some larger districts use volunteers to divide up certain areas of a city’s school district and go door-to-door to attempt to obtain accurate census information. This can be hit-and-miss also, Lukens said.

Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted’s community education program and staff are in charge of completing census information for the HLWW school district.

Every July, they complete a postal patron mailing to get census information.

“Some people, especially with babies, may ignore it thinking that their child is not of school age, but school districts need this information, from birth on up,” HLWW community education Secretary Stacy Horsch said.

HLWW also obtains a public records report from the state that contains information about families living in each city. A fee is charged for this report.

One of the key tools that HLWW school district uses is information in the newspaper.

“We keep a watchful eye on birth announcements in the paper,” Horsch said.

There are also other census counts that districts take through age 21, that are used for a variety of other purposes.

New families that have just moved into the area are urged to contact the school district they reside in to assist each district in compiling the data the district needs.

In Lester Prairie, call the district office at (320) 395-2909. For HLWW schools, call the community education office at (320) 543-3600.

Just as the school census is used for obtaining information about the number of children living in a certain school district, there are many other school-related items that are counted, measured and tabulated.

Crunching other kinds of numbers

Here are some school facts that the U.S. Census Bureau tabulated (August 2003).

Back-to-school shopping

The amount of money spent at family clothing stores August 2002 was $5.4 billion.

Statistics compiled by Children’s Defense Fund- Minnesota (www.cdf-mn.org) using the 2000 census numbers showed that 12 percent of adult Minnesotans older than age 24 did not have a high school diploma.

Twenty-nine percent had only graduated from high school, and 56 percent had some education past high school.

According to CDF almost six percent of 16 to 19 year-olds were high school dropouts, and about three percent had dropped out and were neither employed nor continuing their education. Almost 21 percent, ages 18 to 24 had not graduated from high school. Twenty-eight percent of 18-24 year-olds were enrolled in college or graduate school.

In Carver county, people 16 to 19 who were high school dropouts was 110 or three per cent; people age 16 to 19 who were dropouts, unemployed, not in labor force, not in school was 23 or one percent; people age 18 to 24 not high school graduates was 1,097 or 23 percent.

In McLeod county, people 16 to 19 who were high school dropouts was 87 or five percent; people age 16 to 19 who were dropouts, unemployed, not in labor force, not in school was 28 or one percent; people age 18 to 24 not high school graduates was 542 or 20 percent.

In Wright County, people 16 to 19 who were high school dropouts was 308 or six percent; people age 16 to 19 who were dropouts, unemployed, not in labor force, not in school was 116 or two percent; people age 18 to 24 not high school graduates was 1,696 or 25 percent.


The number of U.S. residents enrolled in schools-from nursery schools to colleges is 73.2 million. About one in four residents age three or older is a student.

The percentage of all students who are enrolled in private elementary or private high schools is 10.

The percentage of three and four-year olds who are enrolled in preschool or kindergarten is 52, up from 21 percent in 1970.

The ratio of kindergarten-age children enrolled in all-day kindergarten is six in 10, up from one in 10 in 1970.

The percentage of high school students ages 15 to 17 who are holding down a full or part-time job is 26.

The number of students who are home-schooled is 850,000. That is two percent of all students, ages five to 17.

The number of school-age children (five to 17) who speak a language other than English at home is 9.8 million. They make up nearly one in five children in this age group. Most of these children (6.8 million) speak Spanish at home.

The percentage of children 12 to 17 years old who are academically on track for their age is 72. This rate is higher for girls than for boys (79 percent versus 69 percent).

The percentage of children 12 to 17 who either are enrolled in a special class for gifted students or do advanced work in any subject is 22. The corresponding rate for those ages six to 11 is 13 percent.

The percentage of children six to 17 who participate in at least one of three extracurricular activities, sports, clubs, or lessons is 59.

The number of students 25 and older enrolled in college is 8.2 million. Students 25 and older account for about half of all college students.

The percentage of college students who are women is 56. Women have held the majority status in college enrollment since 1979.

The rising cost of college

The average tuition, room and board (for in-state students) at the nation’s four-year public colleges and universities for an entire academic year is $9,326; that is up 75 percent from 1990.

The average tuition, room and board at the nation’s four-year private colleges and universities for an entire academic year is $27,711; that is up 84 percent from 1990.

The benefits of remaining in school

The estimated lifetime earnings of professional (e.g. medical, law, dentistry and veterinary medicine) degree-holders are $4.4 million.

This compares with $3.4 million for those with Ph.D.s, $2.5 million for master’s degree-holders, $2.1 million for those with bachelor’s degrees, $1.2 million for high school graduates and $1.0 million for high school dropouts.

The average starting salary offer to bachelor’s degree candidates in petroleum engineering, among the highest of any field of study is $54,761. At the other end of the spectrum were those majoring in the humanities; they were offered an average of $30,653.


The percentage of the nation’s adults 25 and over with at least a high school diploma is 84.

The percentage of the nation’s adults 25 and over who have at least a bachelor’s degree is 27.


The number of public charter schools nationwide is 1,010. These schools, granted a charter exempting them from selected state and local rules and regulations, enrolled 267,000 students.

The number of institutions of higher learning that grant college degrees is 4,084.

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