Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Chinese parents object to racial data collection by schools

Assemblymembers Mike Eng (at podium) and Warren Furutani (5th from right) with some supporters of AB1088.

TWO CHINESE/AMERICAN mothers objected to the question to list the ethnicity of their child as they enrolled them into kindergarten.

According to California statutes, any agency compiling demographic data must include the sub-groups of Chines, Japanese, Vietnamese, Filipino, Hawaiian, Samoan and nine other options instead of clustering them into one broad group of Asian.

Parent Sylvia Tian of Pleasanton, Calif., a suburb of Oakland, said her sons are American; they were born in the United States, according to the East Bay Times. So why does it matter on a registration form what subgroup of Asian they are?

Tian and Lucy Ye have gathered together a small group of parents who object to the classifications. They have been attending school board meetings carrying signs that read “No Asian sub-grouping to our children!” or “United! Not Divided!”

The data collection requirement comes from AB1088 that was passed in 2011. The bill states that a general “Asian” or “Pacific Islander” category is too broad because the groups have vast social, educational, health and economic differences.

“Given the diversity of languages and cultures, separating data for additional Asian and additional Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander ethnic groups and making the data publicly accessible are critical for enhancing our state’s understanding of the needs and experiences of these different communities,” the bill states.

The bill was passed because members of the Asian/American community, specifically those groups who are so small in number they get lost under the Asian/American umbrella. The Hmong or Samoans, for example, have drastically lower scores than students from the Chinese, Japanese or Indian students. Their attendance and suspension records are different too.

If lumped together, the results would give the impression that Asian/Americans perform well in school, hence the model minority myth. The results of smaller groups would be buried under the results of the larger communities. The collection of ethnic-specific data helps the school districts or any other agency, to direct their studies towards these groups.

Assembly Bill 1088 was introduced by former Assemblymember Mike Eng, who worked closely with Chinese for Affirmative Action, Asian Law Caucus, Asian Pacific American Legal Center and Asian Americans for Civil Rights and Equality (AACRE) to sponsor the bill and mobilize year-long community support for passage. Over 1,200 individuals and 100 organizations representing the broader California community signed petitions and submitted letters, urging passage of the bill.

The six years of data collection since 2011 has not shown any inherent bias or reverse discrimination as a result of the AB1088 requirements. If anything, the data has helped improve services to these communities.