Bonta Bill to Address Education and Health Disparities in the Asian Pacific Islander Community Passes Committee

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The AHEAD Act Reveals Critical Health and Education Data for API Ethnic Subgroups

(Sacramento, CA) – Today Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) announced that his legislation to uncover disparities within California's diverse Asian Pacific Islander (API) population has passed the Assembly Higher Education Committee.  AB 1726, the Accounting for Health and Education in Asian Pacific Islander Demographics Act (AHEAD Act) will ensure the collection of data related to health outcomes and educational achievement for API Subgroups.

"Each of our diverse communities has unique social, economic, and educational needs that must be addressed differently," said Bonta.  "Instead of lumping many API communities together under the catch-all 'other Asian' category, the AHEAD Act  would identify API subgroups that are being left behind."

"Beyond each race and ethnicity box is our community's fight for self-determination for our community's needs and unique strengths to be revealed, not concealed, by transparent data systems," said Quyen Dinh, Executive Director of the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center.  " The AHEAD Act, AB 1726, would shine a light on the diversity within Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, made of at least 48 distinct ethnic and linguistic subgroups with vastly different life experiences and outcomes. Better data would allow for resources to be used in better, more targeted, and more efficient ways to improve lives for ALL AAPIs in California.

Recent studies demonstrate that some communities within the API community have fallen behind in important measurements of public health and education.  Although data shows the average API  tends to have health insurance and is on track to obtaining a four-year degree, a break down by ethnicity demonstrates that Koreans, Cambodians, and Thai Americans have a higher percentage of being uninsured, and that Vietnamese, Laotian, Cambodian and Hmong American adults have the lowest educational attainment of Asian American ethnic groups.

AB 1726 takes a critical and practical step for the API community by requiring higher education institutions and public health agencies to disaggregate data into additional categories.  The bill requires the California Community Colleges, California State University, the University of California, the Department of Public Health, and the Department of Healthcare Services to collect and release demographic data for the following additional populations: Bangladeshi, Hmong, Indonesian, Malaysian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Taiwanese, Thai, Fijian, and Tongan Americans.  The data collected will include rates of admission, enrollment, completion and graduation in the education field, and disease rates, health insurance coverage, and birth and death rates for the health field.

In 2015 Bonta authored a similar bill to reveal health and education data for API subgroups.  Unfortunately that bill was vetoed by the Governor.  The California API Legislative Caucus promised to work closely with the Governor's Office on AB 1726 to address his concerns, while ensuring that the bill provides valuable and needed insights that recognize communities that have been rendered invisible by monolithic demographic categories.

Bonta concluded, "Our policies must give a voice to all API subgroups. We must ensure that each API subgroup's unique challenges are addressed appropriately."