Local Lawmakers Propose Bill Adding Hmong, Asian Pacific Islander History in Wisconsin Public Schools

By Liz Holbrook

WAUSAU, WI (WSAU) — Two Central Wisconsin lawmakers have teamed up with three others to introduce a revised education bill.

A group of five state legislators has introduced a bill to require Wisconsin public schools to teach students about the history and experience of Hmong Americans and Asian Pacific Islander Desi Americans. The bill was introduced for the first time in 2020 but didn’t make it out of committee. Wausau Representative Pat Snyder and Stevens Point Representative Katrina Shankland have reworked the bill for the 2021 session.

Snyder says the bill will help Wisconsin students understand the sacrifices the two communities have made to now be living in the state. “I think right now a lot of times people might know that they [Hmong] came over after the war. But I don’t think they know the details and the sacrifices that they made to do that. And I think this is just our way of making sure that the kids here in the State of Wisconsin really know a little bit more about our Hmong Americans and be able to appreciate their sacrifice,”.

Another bill concerning education in Wisconsin was recently passed this year requiring schools to educate students on the Holocaust and other genocides. Snyder thinks the passage of that bill helps to show that history shouldn’t be forgotten, even if it’s difficult to recount.

“Once you don’t talk about it, or skip over it, or skim over it, it starts to get lost in history. And you don’t ever want something like that to be repeated. And we don’t want folks to not realize what brought the Hmong Americans here back in the late 70s, and 80s. Because it’s just something that’s part of our history and it needs to be taught.

Snyder expects the bill to pass through the Assembly floor with relative ease but there are some hurdles with the Senate. A total of 17 senators need to support the bill for it to make its way to the Senate floor. Snyder says some of the past opposition to the bill has been focused on disliking education mandates and concerns about what other groups could want mandatory education.

The next step for the bill is to go to committee to be voted on and brought to the Assembly floor. The earliest the bill can be heard on the floor after going through committee would be sometime in June.