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NEA urges Congress to continue funding program that benefits disadvantaged Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

WASHINGTON - May 01, 2009 -

The nation will celebrate the contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in May, Asian Pacific Heritage Month. During this time of celebration, it is important to remember the challenges facing this diverse group. That’s why the National Education Association is calling for continued funding of a program that provides grants to colleges and universities that serve large numbers of low-income AAPI and other students.

Last year, Congress permanently established the Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution program to help schools improve their infrastructure to serve low-income AAPI and other students.  It is similar to other minority serving institution programs. Schools can use the money to develop curriculums; create outreach programs to encourage students to pursue post-secondary education; provide tutoring, counseling and other support services; and conduct research and data collection for AAPI groups. Congress needs to continue funding the program in fiscal year 2010.

“We applauded Congress when they made the historic move to establish a program that would help underserved Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders,” said Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association. “We know that the ‘model minority’ myth is just that.  While there are many successes to be proud of, not every person from this diverse group excels in school. Education is the great equalizer. It places students on the road to success. It is essential that lawmakers continue to pave the way.”

Statistics show that there are low college degree attainment rates in many Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander communities. The national average of those 25 and older who have a bachelor’s degree or more is just over 24 percent. The 2000 Census found that only 7 percent of Hmong and Laotian Americans have advanced degrees.  That number is about 14 percent for Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders.

To address these concerns, the Department of Education has awarded funds from Congress to six initial schools: the City College of San Francisco, Foothill-De Anza Community College District in Northern California, Guam Community College, South Seattle Community College, the University of Hawaii at Hilo, and the University of Maryland-College Park.

“Investment in education is an investment in our future,” added Van Roekel. “Congress should continue funding this program to ensure that students who want to continue their education have the resources and support they need.”

From advocacy to acknowledgement of the contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, NEA is offering a number of resources for parents and educators during Asian Pacific Heritage Month. To view K–12 lesson ideas, booklists and other information about the AAPI community:

Celebrating Asian and Pacific-Island Heritage

Asian American Booklist

Minority Community Outreach

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional organization, representing 3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Ramona Parks-Kirby (202) 822-7823,