Obama Restores Asian American Initiative, Gives Education Department a Lead Role

By Dervarics, Charles | Diverse Issues in Higher Education, November 12, 2009 | Go to article overview

Obama Restores Asian American Initiative, Gives Education Department a Lead Role


Dervarics, Charles, Diverse Issues in Higher Education


Two years after the Bush administration let its authority lapse, President Barack Obama has reinstated the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders with the U.S. Education Department in a major leadership role.

Obama last month signed an executive order re-establishing the White House Initiative, to be co-chaired by Education Secretary Arne Duncan. The Education Department also will house the initiative. The department already is home to the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans.

The chief goal of the latest initiative is to improve the quality of life for underserved Asian communities through greater participation in federal programs. In announcing the initiative, President Obama also noted that some Asian communities have high schooldropout rates, low college-enrollment rates, health disparities and high poverty rates.

Some of these individuals face language barriers and are subject to hate crimes, Obama said. In addition, there are other challenges "we don't even know about" because of inadequate data collection. "Too often, Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders are all lumped into one category, so we don't have accurate numbers reflecting the challenges of each individual community," the president said. "Smaller communities in particular can get lost, their needs and concerns buried in a spreadsheet."

The administration is expected to name an executive director for the initiative, much as the White House has selected individuals to head the HBCU and Hispanic initiatives. Undersecretary of Education Martha Kanter praised the move last week, citing it as one of the latest examples of administration efforts to reach out to minority-serving institutions and students of color. …

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