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Delaware Senate Democrats

Senate passes bills in support of Delaware’s Asian American and Pacific Islander communities

May 21, 2024

DOVER – The Delaware Senate marked Asian American, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month on Tuesday by passing two bills to help foster greater AAPI inclusion in public education and civic life.

Both measures were the result of advocacy by Austin Lou, a kindergartner at West Park Place Elementary, his father Christina School Board Member Yunfei Lou, University of Delaware Junior Devin Jiang, and Barbara Silber, chair of the Chinese American Community Center in Hockessin.

“A core tenet of democracy is representation, meaning those in government making decisions for us should reflect who we are,” Jiang said. “For Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, we lack representation in Delaware and other states around the country, as well as the federal government. HB 322 will help bring that representation to our communities.”

Sponsored by Rep. Bill Bush and Senate Majority Leader Bryan Townsend in March, House Bill 322 would create a 9-member Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage and Culture in the Delaware Department of State.

The Commission would be responsible for recommending ways the State of Delaware can help promote the welfare and interests of AAPI Delawareans, as well as advance the economic, political, social, and artistic contributions of people of AAPI descent.

“The roughly 50,000 Delawareans who belong to the AAPI community deserve to be celebrated and recognized for their many contributions to our state and our nation,” Townsend said.

“It’s not enough for us to simply denounce the surge of racially motivated threats and attacks that have targeted the AAPI community across the country in recent years,” he said. “These bills represent proactive steps that will help us to elevate the voices of Delaware’s AAPI community, center their lived experiences in our policy discussions, and promote a fuller understanding of our shared history among future generations of Delawareans.”

Passed unanimously by the House in April, HB 322 now heads to Governor John Carney for his signature. 

The Senate on Tuesday also sent Senate Bill 297 to the House for final consideration.

Sponsored by Sen. Townsend and Rep. Sophie Phillips, SB 297 would direct the Delaware Department of Education (DOE) to update content standards and regulations using a non-exhaustive list of racial, ethnic and cultural groups to encourage a more culturally responsive public education that includes instruction in the diversity of contributions and experiences of all learners. 

By specifying that DOE use a “non-exhaustive list of racial, ethnic and cultural groups,” the bill also provides more flexibility for inclusiveness in school curricula beyond the AAPI community without requiring new legislation for each group.

SB 297 now heads to the House for final consideration.

“As a woman of African American, European, Indian and Caribbean descent, I became the first member of the General Assembly to represent the Asian community when I was elected in 2022. But we need more diverse voices in positions of power” Rep. Phillips said. “Delaware is lucky to have a rich and beautiful medley of cultures. By ensuring Delaware students learn about the history and contributions of Delawareans from diverse backgrounds, we are taking a huge step creating a stronger and more inclusive State.”