Senator VillivalamIllinois would be the first state in the country to require a unit on Asian American history in public schools

SPRINGFIELD -- May 25, 2021 -- The TEAACH Act, a bill that would require public elementary and high schools in Illinois to incorporate a unit on Asian American history, passed out of the Illinois State Senate with a unanimous vote of 57-0 on Tuesday.

HB376, the TEAACH (Teaching Equitable Asian American Community History) Act, would create the first state requirement of its kind in the country, ensuring that Illinois public school students learn about key topics in Asian American history, such as the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. The bill is spearheaded by the nonprofit organization Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Chicago in part in response to the sharp rise in hate incidents against Asian Americans in 2020 around the country.

If it sees final passage and is signed into law by Governor Pritzker, the bill will go into effect beginning in the 2022-2023 school year, and teachers will be able to use a 5-hour PBS documentary series and K-12 curriculum compliant with Common Core and national standards called “Asian Americans” as a no-cost way to include the subject matter.

“This vote brings us one step closer to seeing Asian Americans as a vital part of America’s past and future, and I hope one day we will no longer be seen as outsiders in this country,” said Kirsten Ng, a sophomore at Niles North High School and a youth leader with the HANA Center. “We’re grateful for the senators who voted in favor of TEAACH for listening to our needs--especially now, as we see heightened anti-Asian violence. The TEAACH Act is one of the long-term solutions to address that problem. We understand that this is only the beginning of our effort, and in order to see quality Asian American history in our classrooms, we need collaboration and holistic community effort.”

“Asian Americans have made many contributions to major milestones in U.S. history, including the building of the Transcontinental Railroads, civil rights activism, and developing cutting-edge technology,” said XiJian Deng, a community leader with the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community. “Learning Asian American histories will allow students to appreciate the multiplicity of American identities and respect each other's diverse heritage. Through this education, Asian American children can also feel a sense of belonging and subsequently make their own contributions to American society."

The bill, sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Ram Villivalam--the first Asian American in the Illinois Senate--and State Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz in the House, advanced out of the Senate Education Committee on May 11, and will go to the House for a final concurrence vote this week.

"Students from all backgrounds need to learn about the history of people from different cultures and ethnicities to understand the systemic inequities that exist today," Sen. Villivalam said. "This legislation would be a significant milestone for Asian Americans and will ensure that our stories and experiences are accurately reflected in our history curriculum."