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California Won't Apply for Federal Data Disaggregation Grant: Report

by Frances Kai-Hwa Wang /
A Sacramento rally in support of AB-1726, including members of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, Asian Health Services, Empowering Pacific Islander Communities, Southeast Asia Resource Action Center. The supporters included many members of the Hmong, Lao, and Mien-American communities, according to SEARAC.Courtesy of the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center

California’s Department of Education has decided not to apply for a U.S. Department of Education Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Data Disaggregation Initiative grant, according to a report by McClatchy DC. The initiative seeks to help state educational agencies with local partners obtain and evaluate disaggregated data for K-12 AAPI English learners and AAPI sub-populations beyond the existing seven racial and ethnic categories.

RELATED: New Data Disaggregation Initiative Announced by Dept. of Education

Because the model minority myth stereotype often masks the struggles of many AAPIs, which includes 320 countries and ethnic groups and over 100 language groups, last month two groups of Congressional leaders urged California Gov. Jerry Brown and California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson to apply for the federal grant.

“When disaggregated data is available, we are able to see significant disparities experienced by some AAPI populations and English Language Learners,” said a letter from the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC). “For example, 40% of Southeast Asian American students drop out of high school each year and less than 25% hold a college degree. Without better data to shine a light on the disparities in educational outcomes within the AAPI community, schools will fail to provide critical support and targeted interventions to close achievement gaps. This grant program will enable state departments of education to identify educational opportunity gaps and target resources to underserved students that require greater attention.”

California deputy superintendent Keric Ashley told McClatchy DC that California’s Department of Education was not applying for the grant because it was not large enough and because California districts already collect that information. “Districts already have this Asian subgroup data in their local student information systems and can analyze it now,” he told the publication.

RELATED: Report Highlights Higher Education Disparities Within Asian America

The $1 million AAPI Data Disaggregation Initiative was described by U.S. Secretary of Education John King in a video as “a new federal grant program that will be a foundational step in identifying educational opportunity gaps and targeting support to improve the college-and career-readiness of underserved AAPI students and English learners."

According to 2014 Census data, 6.3 million people in California were Asian, alone or in combination — the largest Asian population in the nation — and 347,501 people in California were Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander (NHPI), alone or in combination — the second largest NHPI population in the nation after Hawaii.

A request for comment to California's Department of Education from NBC News was not returned.

“It is very important that California apply for this historic grant from the U.S. Department of Education, given the large and diverse Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) population in our state," Rep. Judy Chu, chair of CAPAC, told NBC News. "Statistics show a stark difference in educational attainment among certain AAPI subgroups, especially students in the Southeast Asian and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities. This funding will allow our state to better identify and implement targeted solutions to address educational disparities so that all students have access to a quality education.”

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