State Watch

Bill that would mandate Asian American history lessons in Illinois schools heads to governor’s desk

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A bill that would require Asian American history lessons be taught in Illinois schools cleared the final hurdle in the state legislature on Monday, and will now head to the governor’s desk for signature.

The bill, dubbed the Teaching Equitable Asian-American History Act (TEAACH), would mandate that beginning in the 2022-2023 school year, history curriculums in public elementary and high schools must include “a unit of instruction studying the events of Asian American history,” including the history of Asian Americans in Illinois and the Midwest and their contributions toward advancing civil rights from the 19th century forward.

The legislation also says the state superintendent of education can prepare and make available instructional materials for all school boards that can be used as a “guideline” for developing units of instruction.

The regional superintendent of schools will monitor school districts’ compliance with the curriculum requirements, according to the bill.

The state House passed the final version of the bill on Monday in a 108-10 vote, after the Senate unanimously approved the legislation last week.

If Gov. JB Pritzker (D) signs the bill into law, Illinois would be the first state to mandate a unit of Asian American history be taught in schools, according to Reuters.

Illinois state Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, who co-sponsored the TEAACH Act, said it was “incredibly gratifying” to see support rallied for the Asian American community.

“It’s been incredibly gratifying to see support from the Asian American community and from the non-Asian community,” she said, according to Politico.

The Hill reached out to Pritzker for comment.

The state measure comes amid a spike in anti-Asian hate crimes nationwide.

According to data from Stop AAPI Hate, a national coalition aimed at addressing anti-Asian American discrimination, the number of reports of anti-Asian hate incidents more than doubled in the past year.

From the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 to March 2021, the number of cases of anti-Asian incidents increased from 3,795 to 6,603.

The surge in anti-Asian incidents comes on the backdrop of the spread of the coronavirus, which Democrats have blamed in part to rhetoric linking COVID-19 to Asian Americans because of the virus’s China origins.

Former President Trump at times called the coronavirus the “China virus” and “kung flu” when he was in office.

The conversation surrounding anti-Asian hate was thrust into the national spotlight in March after a string of shootings at Atlanta-area spas that left eight dead, including six Asian American women.

President Biden earlier this month signed a bill, dubbed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which aims to improve hate crime tracking and reporting by assigning a Justice Department official to review and accelerate hate crimes reports and strengthen support for state and local officials probing hate crimes.

“My message to all of those of you who are hurting is, we see you. And the Congress has said, we see you. And we are committed to stop the hatred and the bias,” Biden said at the signing ceremony for the bill.

The legislation did not mention the former president by name.

Tags Asian American history Donald Trump Education Illinois Joe Biden Stop AAPI Hate
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