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Hirono, Meng Reintroduce Legislation to Promote the Teaching of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander History in Public Schools

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) reintroduced legislation to promote the teaching of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) history in public schools. The Teaching Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander History Act would help increase awareness of the history, contributions and experiences of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders in the United States so that more students across the nation understand and appreciate the role that members of the AANHPI community have played in shaping and building America. Companion legislation was introduced in the House by Representative Grace Meng (D-NY).

“Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month is an opportunity to recognize AANHPI individuals and communities that have contributed to the development and enhancement of American life and culture,” said Senator Hirono. “But too often, the teaching of AANHPI history has been limited to passing references or minor footnotes that barely scratch the surface of our diverse and resilient communities. I am proud to join Representative Meng in reintroducing the Teaching Asian Pacific American History Act so that public school students across the U.S. can better understand the racism and prejudice that members of the AANHPI community have endured, as well as the many achievements and contributions they have made to our communities.”

Throughout America’s history, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders have made immeasurable contributions to our nation, helping to make the United States the country that it is today. However, AANHPI history has been ignored or poorly represented in our K-12 education system and social studies textbooks.

Specifically, the Teaching Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander History Act would:

  • Require grant applications from Presidential and Congressional Academies to include AANHPI history as part of their American history and civics programs offered to students and teachers;
  • Encourage the inclusion of AANHPI history in national and state tests administered through the National Assessment of Educational Progress; and
  • Promote collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution's Asian Pacific American Center to develop innovative programming regarding AANHPI history.

Every year, hundreds of teachers and students attend Presidential and Congressional academies, which are funded by the U.S. Department of Education, for an in-depth study of American history and civics. Presidential Academies are designed for teachers seeking to strengthen their knowledge of American history, and Congressional Academies for students who aim to enrich their understanding of the subject.

The legislation has been co-sponsored by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Tina Smith (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Ben Ray Luján (D-NM).

The legislation has been endorsed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) Action Fund, American Federation of Teachers, Teach for America, Educators for Excellence, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA), Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC, OCA-Asian Pacific American Advocates, Asian American Federal (AAF), Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO), Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF), National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA), Chinese Historical Society of America, Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), Council of Korean Americans, Indian Diaspora Council, National Asian/Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurship (National ACE), Committee of 100, Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) and the Fred Korematsu Institute.

The full text of the bill is available here.

Senator Hirono has long advocated on behalf of AANHPI communities in Hawaii, the U.S., and Pacific Island nations and territories. Today, she led 30 of her Senate colleagues in introducing a resolution marking May as AANHPI Heritage Month. Earlier this week, she introduced a resolution marking May 10, 2023 as Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Mental Health Day. Last year, Senator Hirono also brought legislation to the Senator floor, that was signed into law by President Biden, establishing a commission to study the creation of a National Museum of Asian Pacific American History and Culture.