Three states have been awarded federal grants to break down and analyze data on Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students by their ethnicity, the White House announced Monday.
The move, the White House said in a statement, is intended to help better expose disparities in education among English language learners and AAPIs, who represent more than 50 ethnic backgrounds and speak over 100 different languages.
Minnesota, Washington, and Hawaii were all chosen to receive the grants, which amount to $836,000, according to the White House.
"These grants support the Administration's commitment to improve data collection, helping to identify educational opportunity gaps and tailor support to improve the college-and career-readiness of underserved AAPI students and English learners," Education Secretary John B. King Jr. said in a statement.
The grant program, announced in May, will award up to $1 million a year for five years to states. The Education Department said the grants for Minnesota, Washington, and Hawaii are expected to impact around one million AAPI students.
"Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have too often been subjected to the model minority myth, the notion that they are all successful, educated, and self-sufficient, which has masked unique needs of AAPI subgroups," Doua Thor, executive director for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, said in a statement.
Daniel Ichinose, project director of the demographic research project at Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles, told NBC News that the educational needs of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are often lost without breaking down data by ethnicity.
"It's encouraging to see the focus on Minnesota and Hawaii," he said in an email. "Some of the most in-need Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders live there."
The National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA) also welcomed the news.
"Data disaggregation is one of our top priorities because the needs of AAPI students are far too often unknown and unfulfilled," NCAPA national director Christopher Kang said in a statement. "Data allows us to see our diversity and address where we need to fill the gaps."
But not everyone agrees. This year, some Asian Americans in California, many of them Chinese, put up a fight against a state bill to include 10 additional AAPI ethnicities when collecting data on education and healthcare.
They feared, in part, that the disaggregated data on education could be used as a backdoor way to limit the number of certain AAPI groups being admitted to public colleges — a claim that the bill's supporters dismissed. In 1996, California banned the use of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin for public college or university admissions decisions.
California's disaggregation bill was eventually signed into law in September, though not before lawmakers removed the education component. Despite this, the University of California and California State University still gave commitments to release disaggregated data on AAPI students, the bill's sponsor, Democratic Assemblyman Rob Bonta, wrote on his Facebook page at the time.
California, which has the country's largest AAPI population, chose not to apply for the federal grant money in May. At the time, McClatchy DC reported that the state education department's deputy superintendent said the grant wasn't big enough, and that the state's districts already collect that information.