A bill to encourage schools to adopt a course of study related to Asian American and Pacific Islanders History for grades 1-12 has strangely met with resistance in the Legislature, and specifically from the California Asian American and Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus (AAPILC).
Senate Bill 1363 by Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber), would encourage school districts to include in their curriculum the contributions of Asian American and Pacific Islander individuals and communities to the economic, cultural, social, and political development of California and the United States, and merely provides a suggested framework for classroom instruction on the contributions of API citizens in social science courses.
SB 1363 does not mandate this course of study, nor does it incur any costs.
The bill was passed out of the Senate Education Committee in April, and then took another six weeks to reach the Senate Floor for a vote on May 16, 2022. SB 1363 then moved to the Assembly for committee assignments and hearings, where it sat until June 2nd, when it was referred to the Assembly Education Committee. SB 1363 is still awaiting a date for hearing.
The Globe called Assembly Education Committee Chairman Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell’s Capitol office and spoke with his communications director, and asked if there is a holdup, and if so, what that is. His Communications Director attempted to get this answer from the Education Committee Consultant, but said he was unable to. We never received an answer.
The Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association (APAPA) along with several community organizations and student leaders held a press conference and rally in support of Senate Bill 1363 Wednesday afternoon, to highlight that SB 1363 is currently parked in the Assembly Education Committee where Chair and Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell refuses to set the measure for a committee hearing.
“With the legislative deadline to place measures for a committee hearing on Wednesday, June 29, it appears that the chair is running the clock on SB 1363 to kill the bill,” the APAPA said.
Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) is the Chairman of the California Asian American and Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus, which issued this statement Wednesday:
“On several occasions, the AAPILC has reached out to the bill sponsors to withdraw this performative bill and to partner with the caucus and AAPI community leaders on a substantive bill, but despite false assurances that APAPA would work with the caucus, APAPA has continued to push forward this unacceptable bill,” the AAPILC said in a statement Wednesday.
But as the Globe reported last week, Sen. Nielsen offered to amend the bill in a committee hearing, but Sen. Pan never answered Sen. Nielsen. And Sen. Pan abstained from voting on SB 1363, both in the committee and when the entire Senate voted on the bill, passing it 25-0.
At Wednesday’s press conference by the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association, Sen. Nielsen said he spoke several times with Sen. Pan and asked him why he was stonewalling SB 1363. “He just stared off into space and had not one word to say,” Sen. Nielsen said.
“What’s bitterly disappointing to me is certain members of this Legislature are trying to covertly – not even out in the open – but covertly tried to kill the bill,” Sen. Nielsen said. “Why? Because they say it’s not strong enough.”
Sen. Nielsen said he offered to accept any amendments with stronger language from Sen. Pan “on the spot” and make him a joint author of SB 1363. “By the way, where have you been over the decades yourselves, and for leadership for the API community?” Sen. Nielsen asked at the press conference.
And that is likely the underlying issue of this legislative stonewalling. Sen. Nielsen, a Caucasian Republican man, is one of the founding members of APAPA, the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association, and has participated in the association for 20 years. The APAPA asked Sen. Nielsen to author the bill – they did not ask the Chairman of the Asian American and Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus Sen. Pan to author the bill.
The Globe was told by several sources that the stonewalling and refusal to schedule SB 1363 for hearing has been at the behest of Chairman Sen. Pan and the Asian American and Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus. “That is an egregious affront to the people of California and to the institution of your Legislature,” Sen. Nielsen said. “Is that what we have become? I certainly hope not.”
“What a terrible target they tried to put on API citizens, who are trying to strive and make us even greater than we have been,” Sen. Nielsen said. “That’s stabbing you in the back. If he’s to represent us [Sen. Pan], he should be at the forefront – not in the backdoor with the door locked.”
Petty politics by powerful elected officials expose their indifference to the people of this state.
Sen. Nielsen speaking at the APAPA press conference Wednesday:
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