Wesley J. Foster
David F. Gerhardt
Rosalie Pehousek Lambert
Jane Gracine Leach
Vernon William Roehl
James W. Shuga
Judith “Judy” Trudeau
Robert W. Zastoupil
Dorothy M. Zimmerlee
With billions in federal aid and seats in Congress at stake, some states are dragging their feet in carrying out one of the Census Bureau’s chief recommendations for making sure everyone is counted during the 2020 census.
Five states—Florida, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Dakota and Texas—have not set up “complete count committees” that would create public awareness campaigns to encourage people to fill out the questionnaires.
In some of those states, politicians argued that a statewide body would be unnecessary, since local committees, cities and nonprofit organizations are already working to publicize the census. In others, state leaders didn’t see any urgency to act.
The once-a-decade count of the U.S. population starts in January in a remote area of Alaska. The rest of the nation takes part starting in the spring.
“We are encouraging others to join in,” Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham said this month. “The clock is ticking, and the time to join is now.”
Six states—Iowa, Maine, Tennessee, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin—only got on board in the past several weeks.
Officials say the committees can separate census winners from losers.
“Complete count committees are extremely effective,” said Albert Fontenot, an associate director at the Census Bureau. “It’s in the states’ interests in that they get a funding flow and congressional seats.”
Of the holdout states, all but Louisiana have Republican governors.
In Texas, a measure to create a committee died in the GOP-dominated Legislature earlier this year even though the second most populous state has the most to gain from the census—up to three congressional seats.
Some Texas lawmakers were worried about losing their seats during redistricting if population surges favoring Democrats were found in urban and suburban areas, said Luis Figueroa, legislative and policy director at the Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin.
Also, at the time, the Trump administration was pushing to add a citizenship question to the form, and some lawmakers didn’t want to take a stand on the issue by promoting the census, he said. The U.S. Supreme Court later blocked the question.
Twenty-six state governments are appropriating nearly $350 million to reach people and get them to respond to the census. The amounts range from California’s record $187 million to Montana’s $100,000, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. New York City is committing $40 million.
States led by Democrats have spent more per capita. Of the 11 states spending at least $1 per resident, all but North Dakota have Democratic governors, according to an Associated Press analysis.
In Wisconsin, The Legislature’s budget committee killed a Gov. Tony Evers proposal to spend $1 million in the next state budget to educate hard-to-reach residents about the 2020 census.
California, which stands to lose a seat in Congress, is spending $4.73 per person, using the money to target certain ethnic communities, provide educational materials to schools and identify community leaders who can personally encourage participation in the most populous state.
Spending on outreach offers a great return on investment, said Ditas Katague, director of the California Complete Count-Census 2020 Office.
“You have to look at how many programs will suffer and how much money we will lose,” Katague said.
In 2000, when California spent $24 million, 76 percent of residents returned the questionnaires by mail, outstripping the national average. In 2010, in the aftermath of the recession and budget cuts, California spent only $2 million, and the mail response rate dropped to 73 percent, below the national average.
In Florida, the third most populous state, bills establishing a statewide committee died in the GOP-controlled legislature. With an influx from such places as Puerto Rico and Venezuela, Florida has gained about 2.5 million people since 2010 and could pick up two more congressional seats.
A spokeswoman for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he is still reviewing what action should be taken to help get a full head count. “The governor takes the census seriously,” spokeswoman Helen Ferre said.
In Nebraska, Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts vetoed a bill to create a complete count committee, saying that local committees are already doing the work and that the legislation would have given a University of Nebraska program authority to create the panel without guidance from the state.
The number of congressional seats for Nebraska is expected to remain unchanged.
Still, “ultimately I think this will be a loss for Nebraska, especially in terms of receiving federal funds,” said state Sen. Matt Hansen, a Democrat from Lincoln who sponsored the legislation.
“Specifically, I am concerned children, racial and ethnic minority populations, homeless persons, and those who live in rural and isolated areas will be undercounted.”
Milton school officials missed an opportunity for education and prevention by refusing to use the word “swastika” when talking about the “offensive symbol” high school students made with their bodies on the gym floor Sept. 30, an Anti-Defamation League spokesman said.
“If you aren’t speaking directly to the type of hate or symbol that was used and what that symbol means, then you’re not fully addressing the situation or the needs of the community that was targeted,” said David Goldenberg, Midwest regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, an international Jewish anti-hate organization.
When asked why he and other school officials wouldn’t use the word, Milton Superintendent Rich Dahman declined to comment.
Goldenberg, who called the Milton incident “troubling, to say the least,” said while it’s good the district discussed the incident with students who were in the class at the time, not using the word “swastika” does not address the issue in the best way.
Between 2016 and 2018, the United States saw a 46% increase in antisemitic events in K-12 schools, Goldenberg said.
Documents obtained by The Gazette through an open-records request include messages between two Milton School District employees who were discussing the Sept. 30 incident.
“Any idea what happened at mhs yesterday?” one staff member asks in the messages.
Another staff member responds before adding in another message “some students in gym class made a swastika with their bodies.”
The staff member who asked about the incident responded “lol wtf” and “like, cmon.”
A football coach emailed the high school principal, saying a member of the media emailed him about some players involved in an incident with a swastika, but he said he gave the person no details.
All other references to the incident in the 85 pages of documents provided by the school district call it an “offensive symbol.” Neither Dahman nor school board President Joe Martin used the word ”swastika” when asked about the incident, but neither denied it was the symbol that was formed.
In the days after the swastika incident, students who were in the gym at the time were spoken to about the symbol, its history and why it is inappropriate, Dahman said. No schoolwide or districtwide conversation was had on the incident or topic, he said.
Parents were notified about an inappropriate incident that happened at the school and told the district followed policy to address it, but no additional information went out to families, Dahman said.
In a news release three days after the incident, Dahman said multiple Milton High School students were disciplined for forming an “offensive symbol” on the gym floor the morning of Sept. 30.
When asked to assess the district’s response to the incident, Martin said he thought it was handled appropriately.
Martin said continued education and awareness can help prevent an incident such as this one from happening again.
“I’m very confident that our response was appropriate and have been assured by administrative and teaching staff that they did go back and help the kids understand what’s involved with these and why that’s not acceptable,” he said.
Dahman told The Gazette on Oct. 3, the day the news release was issued, that he couldn’t say anything more on the subject, including how many students were disciplined or what the symbol was.
The Gazette called the school district multiple times seeking more information, but district officials said they couldn’t comment because of student privacy.
The Gazette filed an open-records request Oct. 4 asking for details about the incident but not information that would identify individual students. The district responded with 85 pages of documents, including emails to staff about the incident, media correspondence, chat messages and news releases. Some of the documents include conversations about how to deal with media and staff communication.
The Gazette on Nov. 15 asked Dahman about the type of education students in the class were given, the focus of that education, how many students participated in the incident, how the district plans to prevent similar incidents, among other questions.
He responded with a written statement:
“At the School District of Milton, our number one priority is to maintain a safe and positive learning environment for all students. To that end, the District has policies and procedures in place designed to address such issues. We are confident that our school and district administration promptly investigated this incident and addressed it with the students in accordance with our policies.”
“As a response to the incident on September 30, staff at Milton High School wanted to not only have consequences for inappropriate student behavior, but also use the situation as a learning experience. MHS staff met with students from that class and discussed the history of the symbol, why it’s offensive, and the negative impact of hate symbols.”
The Gazette scheduled an appointment with Dahman on Tuesday, but he called before the appointment, saying he preferred to have the conversation by phone.
When asked why school officials did not use the word “swastika” when talking about the incident, Dahman said he wouldn’t comment any more on the issue.
Goldenberg said some states have laws that require public secondary schools to include Holocaust education in their curriculum. Wisconsin is not one of them.
The swastika is a symbol adopted by the Nazi Party in Germany before World War II and often is associated with antisemitism.
“What we also encourage is that communities and schools call out hate for what it is and be specific to the kind of hate it is. That’s how you address these issues,” Goldenberg said.
“Many times, hate can be broad,” he said. “Other times, symbols or languages used are specific. In this particular case, if the swastika is used, we know what it symbolizes … it is a symbol that is clearly antisemitic in nature ... calling it what it is is how you can actually address the core problem and address the needs of the targeted community.”
“Often, incidents affect more than just the targeted group. That’s why they’re used by haters,” Goldenberg said. “Students need to understand that. It’s important that they understand how a symbol or how certain speech could be interpreted, intentional or not.”
Dahman said the district did not provide additional training for staff members on how to deal with similar situations because they already are prepared.
“I think our staff is alert to how to handle situations like this,” he said, “and they did a nice job making it clear to students that the use of that symbol is not appropriate.”
Tabitha Frank was left with one fallopian tube, one ovary, one kidney and no appendix by the time she was 21 years old.
Each surgery came with hope the pain Frank has experienced since she was a teenager would go away.
But it never did and likely never will.
Frank, 34, of Janesville, was diagnosed five years ago with endosalpingiosis—a rare condition that occurs when tissue from the fallopian tubes is found in other parts of the body, she said.
After a “miracle” pregnancy, a meeting with a congressman and a donation from a friend, Frank is ready to help other women living with pain.
Frank has started a nonprofit organization—Endosalpingiosis Foundation—to create awareness of the condition, connect with women who are suffering and raise money for endosalpingiosis research, Frank said.
The organization is in its early phases. Frank is trying to fundraise to apply for 501(c)(3) status and build a network of women who need help or want to help others.
Being diagnosed with a reproductive health condition can lead many women to feel depressed, anxious, isolated or shameful, said Patricia Nahn, gynecologist at Mercyhealth in Janesville.
Nahn typically sees two or three women a day who are experiencing pain, heavy bleeding or irregular periods. Those symptoms can be normal or can be signs of something more serious.
Frank started a Facebook support group for women with endosalpingiosis and has talked to more than 100 women from around the world who can relate to her experience.
Nahn said it’s important for women to understand their vaginas, uteruses and fallopian tubes are beautiful.
The women in Frank’s family told Frank her irregular periods as a teenager were normal.
But in 2003, Frank was rushed to the emergency room for abdominal pain. Doctors found a cyst on her ovary, and it had to be removed that day, she said.
In 2004, Frank had one of her fallopian tubes removed, and in 2005 her appendix and one kidney were removed in efforts to eliminate her pain, she said.
Doctors told Frank she likely would never become pregnant.
But in 2013, a miracle happened.
She became pregnant with her son, A.J., she said.
Almost immediately, she started having complications that led her to being on bed rest for her entire pregnancy, Frank said.
Shortly after A.J.’s birth in December 2013, Frank’s pain and complications grew worse.
Three months after A.J. was born, a doctor performed laparoscopic surgery and diagnosed Frank with endosalpingiosis, she said.
The surgery came after one doctor tried changing her birth control medication to manage her symptoms and another doctor thought she had pelvic floor problems, Frank said.
There is little that can be done to treat the condition and it can only be diagnosed through surgery, Frank said.
Eventually, Frank was able to get a partial hysterectomy, which has helped, but she still lives with pain and a slew of other side effects.
Endosalpingiosis is similar to endometriosis—a condition where uterine tissue grows outside the uterus, Nahn said.
With both conditions, the body reacts to misplaced tissue with inflammation and pain, Nahn said.
But endometriosis is far more common than endosalpingiosis. There is more research of endometriosis and more resources for women with the condition, Nahn said.
Few studies of endosalpingiosis have been done because of its rarity, meaning there’s little data to guide treatment, Nahn said.
A doctor with UW Health whom The Gazette reached out to for this story cancelled an interview with the newspaper, saying he did not know enough about endosalpingiosis to discuss it.
Many women struggle talking about reproductive health because they think it is embarrassing or gross, Nahn said.
Doctors have to create a dialogue that makes their patients comfortable to open up. Most importantly, they need to treat women with respect, Nahn said.
Implicit gender bias has existed for years in the medical field, Nahn said.
Men often are taken more seriously than women when they complain of having pain or discomfort, Nahn said.
Medical professionals are getting better at listening to women, but past practices still affect female patients, Nahn said.
For example, many pain studies have included only males because drug companies don’t want to run the risk of women dropping out because they become pregnant, Nahn said.
That means data used to treat pain is based completely on male anatomy and do not pertain to women’s needs, Nahn said.
”It leaves us feeling like the second gender,” Nahn said.
Frank had a handful of miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies before having A.J., she said.
Each miscarriage came with physical and emotional pain, Frank said.
When Frank became pregnant with A.J., she didn’t tell anyone besides her partner until after the first trimester because she didn’t want to get anyone’s hopes up, including her own.
Conditions such as endosalpingiosis and endometriosis can cause infertility, leaving many women emotionally in shambles, Nahn said.
“The emotional impact on women seeking to have children unsuccessfully cannot be overstated,” Nahn said. “It is devastating for many. It is such an innate thing—so primal in a way.”
Even women who thought they never would have kids feel broken after learning they are infertile, Nahn said.
“I tell people all the time, it is different to think that ‘I don’t want’ than ‘I can never have,’” Nahn said. “Those are two different psychological constructs. ‘Not want’ has power, ‘I can’t have’ is powerless.”
The first donation Frank received toward starting her nonprofit was from her best friend.
Last Christmas, Frank’s friend Jenna said all she wanted for Christmas was to donate to Frank’s mission. Jenna’s dad then wrote a $50 check, Frank said.
This holiday season Frank wants to create care packages for women she has met via her online support group that have such goodies as heating pads and chocolate, she said.
She also wants to host a “girls’ night in” where women can hear doctors and therapists speak about women’s health and enter to win prizes, Frank said.
On a larger scale, Frank wants to help women across the country by urging lawmakers to include endosalpingiosis as a condition that qualifies people for disability pay, she said.
Frank met with U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Wis., earlier this year to champion a bill supporting her cause. Frank said she heard from one of Steil’s staffers this month, who said the office is looking into her concerns in addition to other rare disease legislation, Frank said.
Pain has left Frank unable to work for years, she said, and the nonprofit is her full-time job.
Recently, Frank was folding pamphlets on a desk in her small, orange living room.
She held up one of the pamphlets and acknowledged the folding was not perfect, but she is doing the best she can with what she has.