SEARAC Applauds Historic Passage of Hmong American Studies Bill

WASHINGTON, DC, and MILWAUKEE, WI — Early this month, Wisconsin Governor Evers signed Act 266, a historic law that mandates the teaching of Hmong American and Asian American history across K-12 classrooms in the state. Act 266 is the first in the nation to include the history and experiences of Hmong Americans in Wisconsin’s K-12 school curricula. Act 266 amends Wisconsin’s 1989 law, Act 31, and now directs local school boards to include Hmong Americans and Asian Americans for teaching multicultural education.

The new Wisconsin law represents a groundbreaking win for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AAs and NHPIs) through spreading awareness about local communities like the Hmong American community, which is the largest Asian American community in the state. Since the COVID-19 pandemic and rise in anti-Asian hate, the need for inclusive curricula on AA and NHPI history and ethnic studies is crucial to building an understanding of the vast contributions of AAs and NHPIs across the country. Importantly, Southeast Asian American (SEAA) narratives need to continue to be included as both part of Asian American history and to have their distinct experiences uplifted.

“SEARAC applauds the passage of this crucial legislation in Wisconsin,” said Quyên Đinh, Executive Director at SEARAC. “We congratulate the AAPI Coalition of Wisconsin and its statewide network for championing this bill toward a more inclusive education system for Hmong American and other Asian American students in the state. We are inspired by your advocacy and hope other states will soon follow your lead on what is possible for creating visibility for the Southeast Asian community within AA and NHPI history.

This is a significant milestone for Wisconsin, after decades of advocacy in prior legislative sessions. The AAPI Coalition of Wisconsin, together with Hmong and Asian American community leaders, K-12 and university educators, students, parents, allies, and legislators, came together to achieve the passage of Act 266 in this 2023/2024 legislative cycle. This victory underscores the power of collective action and the importance of standing together in solidarity for the rights and dignity of every Wisconsinite.

The bill’s passing resonates deeply with Wisconsin’s AAPI community. “Next year, it will be 50 years since our Hmong families left their homeland to escape war and come to America, and yet many people still don’t know why we are here and who we are,” said E Her Vang, AAPI Coalition of Wisconsin leader. “That is one reason why Act 266 is momentous and deeply personal.  I am proud of all the coalitions, community members, legislatives, students, and parents that showed up and came together to make this historical dream become a reality. This is a huge win for our community and all Wisconsinites because teaching our Hmong and AAPI history, which is American history, will foster more belonging and connection between students and staff at school and beyond.