Saturday, June 17, 2017
Providence, RI - In a big win for the Southeast Asian communities of Rhode Island, the General Assembly made history this month by voting to pass the "All Students Count Act," introduced by Representative Grace Diaz and Senator Jeanine Calkin. The bill is designed to uncover education disparities among Asian and Pacific Islander students.
The All Students Count Act requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to disaggregate data for specified Asian ethnic groups in every demographic report by ancestry or ethnic origin.
Representative Diaz, a leading champion for the bill, reacted by saying, "I am very proud of my colleagues for joining me in the passage of the bill. We all worked very hard to get this bill passed. The population of Rhode Island is uniquely diverse, especially within the Asian community. I believe that data drives good policy, and this bill will do that to meet all of the needs of our students because all of them matter."
Senator Calkin added, "I am very pleased that the Rhode Island Senate unanimously passed the All Students Count Act yesterday. This bill will help close the achievement gap for students in districts that may not be receiving federal funding. The community advocates should be proud of all the work they have put in over the last few years on this bill, and I'm happy their efforts have led to the passage of this act."
Founding Executive Director of the Alliance of Rhode Island Southeast Asians for Education (ARISE) Chanda Womack said, "Asian Americans as a whole have statistically been seen as overachievers, and the 'model minority.' The disaggregated data tell a different story for Southeast Asians. It is imperative to look beyond broad census labels to understand how sub-populations are faring."
Disaggregated data from the American Community Survey reveal that Cambodian and Hmong communities faces far higher poverty levels and lower rates of education attainment when compared to the Asian population and the total population in Rhode Island.
SEARAC Executive Director Quyen Dinh stated, "Rhode Island is poised to become a national leader in moving forward this major civil rights issue for Asian American communities by dismantling systemic barriers that perpetuate the model minority myth. Disaggregated educational data will uncover long-standing disparities that have been invisible too long for Southeast Asian American communities, taking us one step closer to true education equity for our communities. We applaud ARISE and the Rhode Island organizers who brought us this far."
Womack continued, "This is a big step forward for our community. Organizations like the Providence Youth Student Movement (PrYSM) and SEARAC have been working on this for over a decade. It's encouraging and empowering that our state leaders understand the need and stand behind this."
Rhode Island would be the third state in the nation to require their education department to disaggregate Asian American student data, after Washington and Minnesota.