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Young Kim

Jul 5, 2023 | Editorials, Education

Originally Published in The Hill on July 4, 2023

As we celebrate another year of American independence, we unite around the ideals that sealed the founding of our nation. The freedom, hope, and opportunity this country provides is what defines the promise of America and has made us a global leader for 247 years. Our work to form a more perfect union and live up to this promise are the gears that keep this great experiment running.

The Supreme Court ruling that race-based admissions practices at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina are unconstitutional is a tremendous victory for protecting the American dream for all students and working toward that more perfect union comprised of a melting pot of diverse ideals where all are created equal.

Race-based education policies counter the values we hold dear and divide us as a nation, undermine global competitiveness, and prevent students from reaching their full potential. Telling students that their race matters more than their merit is a dangerous message that encourages racial discrimination. These out-of-touch policies keep the American dream out of reach for hardworking Americans, including many in the AAPI community.

That is why Californians voted to ban these discriminatory policies in public universities and other public entities through the passage of Prop. 209. I have pushed back on attempts to revive them since, including ACA 5 in 2014 and Prop. 16 in 2020.

We have also seen proposals that go even further, basing curriculum for all students to meet the standards of the lowest-performing students. Over the past two years, I have sent letters to the California Board of Education President Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond opposing the Board’s proposed math framework to “phase out” advanced math classes to address “systemic racism in mathematics.”

Imposing a one-size-fits-all curriculum to meet the needs of lowest-performing students standardizes a race to the bottom academically, stifles students’ growth, and hurts our nation’s global standing. We should find new ways to bring lower-performing students up, not bring higher-performing students down.

We shouldn’t stifle one student’s growth in a subject at the expense of another student’s abilities in a particular subject, especially when students fell drastically behind during the COVID-19 pandemic. The ranking of students in the United States globally in math dropped from 11th out of 79 countries in 2018 to 30th this year. Additionally, according to a report released last year by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, less than half of California students met English language standards and one-third met math standards, and both decreased from before the pandemic.

Without racial discrimination in admissions, California public universities continue to have racially diverse student bodies.  In 2018, more than two-thirds of the 2.8 million students being minorities at University of California, California State University and California Community Colleges, according to a report by the Campaign for College Opportunity.

Additionally, according to Wenyuan Wu, Executive Director of Californians for Equal Rights Foundation, four-year graduation rates of underrepresented racial minorities rose from 31.3% during the 1995-97 period to 55.1 % in 2014.

In Fullerton, near my district in Orange County, California State University, Fullerton (CSUF), over half of bachelor’s degree recipients are first-generation university graduates, and nearly half of the student body is Hispanic. In 2021, I invited Education Secretary Cardona to visit CSUF and see firsthand their quality educational services. I have not heard back.

We do not empower Americans of all backgrounds through racial discrimination; we empower Americans of all backgrounds by ending racial discrimination. That is what this Supreme Court case is all about.

I am grateful to my parents for making sacrifices for my family and I to come to the U.S. legally in the aftermath of the Korean War to have the chance of a better life. I am a proud Korean American and Asian American, and my story reflects the story of so many proud immigrants and Asian Americans across the nation.

I also am not here because I am Asian. I am here because I worked my butt off to achieve the American dream and am fighting every day to keep that dream alive for future generations. College boards determining whose family story they deem more appealing than another is not reflective of the country that welcomed my family and me.

I have worked to promote educational opportunities for students since coming to Congress because I believe education is the key to unlocking new doors for students. I led the bipartisan Innovations in Informal STEM Learning Act, which became law through the CHIPS and Science Act, to support afterschool programs that expose students to STEM concepts. As co-chair of the Congressional App Challenge last Congress, I hosted the largest App Challenge in history, with 192 student teams of middle and high school students competing in my district alone. We had over 9,000 students compete across the country, creating over 2,700 apps in 335 Congressional districts.

I also introduced a bipartisan, bicameral bill with Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-08) and Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05) and Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Tina Smith (D-MN) to make college costs more transparent for students and families. According to a December 2022 GAO report, 91 percent of colleges understate the total cost of college, and 65 percent leave out key details on aid packages. The Understanding the True Cost of College Act (H.R. 1198) would standardize aid forms so families can better navigate these key decisions, figure out what option is best for them, and avoid student debt.

We can improve educational outcomes for students and support opportunities for students to succeed without depriving other capable students of those same opportunities because of their race. The American dream does not require a Harvard degree, and the path to the American dream isn’t a one-lane road. There are many ways to achieve success, and I will keep fighting to ensure the promise of America – where we are judged on our actions and can achieve success through hard work – remains alive for future generations.

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