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Wisconsin's Bipartisan Effort To Include Asian American History In K-12 Curriculum

State Rep. Francesca Hong
Andy Manis
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Wisconsin state Rep. Francesca Hong, D-Madison, speaks in support of Wisconsinites as they call on President Joe Biden and Congress to invest $10 trillion for climate, care, jobs, and justice and reject "bipartisan" deals that fail to deliver what's needed on June 08, 2021 in Madison, Wisconsin.

Earlier this summer, Assembly Bill AB 381 was introduced to the Wisconsin Legislature. The bill calls for the inclusion of Hmong American and APIDA, or Asian, Pacific Islander, Desi American, history be included in the Wisconsin K-12 public school curriculum.

Current state law requires each school board "to provide an understanding of human relations, particularly with American Indians, Black Americans, and Hispanics."

Meanwhile, Wisconsin's neighboring state, Illinois, recently passed the nation’s first mandate that all public schools include Asian American history in their curriculum.

State Rep. Francesca Hong, D-Madison, helps explain the significance of the bipartisan effort underway in Wisconsin: "So this is a very broad, basic first step that we need to take to really talk about how Hmong Americans and Asian Americans have a vital role in the Wisconsin identity and how it’s through this type of education and enrichment that we can build empathy and really help our workforce as well."

Wisconsin has the the third largest Hmong population in the country. Hong adds, "The immigrant story is a very Wisconsin story."

The biggest hurdle, she says, from getting the bill passed is getting a public hearing. The bill has been introduced multiple times before with efforts from both sides of Congress as well as from grassroots coalitions. "It's really a no brainer that this bill should pass through," Hong explains.

If passed, what would actually go into the curriculum would be up to school boards to decide for themselves, she says. The statue, Hong says, is broad and it only requires schools to provide an instructional program to give better understanding of human relations.

Hong also points to the importance of representation. "I think it's incredibly important to have more representation in school board leadership positions, and I think electing those members and really making sure the community leaders are identified, and make sure they're being authentically heard and they have a seat at the decision making table, not just have a seat at the table to [be] tokenized,"she says.

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