Dr. Carmen Ayala, Illinois Superintendent of Education; Representative Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, Governor J.B. Pritzker and State Senator Ram Villivalam. (Photo by Akari Yamada).

According to census estimates, Asian Americans are the fastest-growing demographic group in Illinois. However, the history and contribution of Asian Americans are rarely included in the social studies and history curriculums of public schools.

This will soon change. On Friday, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the Teaching Equitable Asian American Community History (TEAACH) Act into law, making Illinois the first state in the nation to require Asian American history in all public schools.

“Today, we are reaffirming our commitment to create more inclusive school environments. We’re making Illinois the first state in the nation to require that Asian American history will be taught in public schools, including a unit about the Asian American experience,” said Governor Pritzker. “We are setting a new standard for what it means to truly reckon with our history. It’s a new standard that helps us understand one another, and, ultimately, to move ourselves closer to the nation of our ideals.”

The law takes effect Jan. 1, and the teaching requirement – units on the events of Asian American history, including the history of Asian Americans in Illinois and the Midwest – begins with the start of the 2022-2023 school year.  The Illinois State Board of Education will establish a blueprint of educational standards; individual schools will have some leeway over curriculum development and implementation. The Asian American Caucus will assist with outreach and implementation, according to a spokesperson.

The Asian population in Illinois increased by 130,000 or 24% since 2010, including 74,000 in Cook County, according to U.S. Census estimates. Asian Americans represent 9% of Evanston residents and 6% of Illinois residents.

The TEAACH Act was sponsored by State Representative Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz and State Senator Ram Villivalam.