PENNSYLVANIA — State Senators Maria Collett and Nikil Saval this week introduced Senate Bill 839, aiming to incorporate Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) curriculums in Pennsylvania schools. The move comes in response to a surge in bias crimes against people of AAPI descent and aims to foster greater understanding and respect for AAPI histories and contributions.
Senator Collett, representing Montgomery County’s 12th district, highlighted the need for education to tackle prejudices at their roots. “This bill is an important first step to make sure our education system reflects all of our peoples’ histories,” she stated. She cited numerous messages from constituents expressing safety concerns due to the recent rise in attacks on Asian Americans since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the latest Stop AAPI Hate National Report, Pennsylvania ranks seventh in the nation for hate incident reports filed between March 2020 and December 2021. Florida, ranked eighth, passed similar AAPI-inclusive curriculum legislation into law in May 2023.
Senator Saval, representing Philadelphia’s 1st district, emphasized the importance of inclusivity in education. “Every student in our Commonwealth deserves the opportunity to see their heritage honored as part of the broad fabric of the American experience,” he said.
The advocacy group Make Us Visible PA expressed support for the bill, stating, “AAPI history is American history. This bill will help us continue to have conversations within our communities about the importance of including AAPI history in K-12 schools.”
Senate Bill 839 would require the Department of Education to develop an integrated curriculum that includes AAPI individuals, history, and contributions to American society. Additionally, it mandates the provision of AAPI-related materials to schools. The bill also proposes a study by the State Board of Education to assess how AAPI curriculums are currently taught in Pennsylvania school districts.
The legislation will complement Representative Patty Kim’s HB 779, furthering efforts to ensure robust instruction on AAPI history and social contributions across the state.