Chair Ty Tufono and Vice Chair Lisa Dickinson submitted a guest column to the International Examiner updating constituents about CAPAA’s priorities for 2016 to improve education, health and opportunity for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Below is an excerpt:

Whether it’s college tuition, health care access, or immigrant and refugee services, these issues will be among many discussed when your state representatives and senators convene in Olympia for the 60-day legislative session on January 11.

The Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs serves as a bridge between our diverse communities and state policymakers. Throughout the year, members of the Commission examine a broad range of issues in the areas of education, health, human services, economic development, immigration, and civil rights.

At our November board meeting, commissioners approved a legislative agenda based on information and input from the public, community-based organizations, and state agencies.

Here are some of the key priorities we will be working on in 2016.

Supporting Educational Success

From teachers to text books to after-school programs, students of color want to see themselves reflected in the education system.

At the recent Pacific Islander UPRISE Education Summit, students spoke about the importance of schools recognizing and valuing the assets they bring to the classroom.

These concerns are embodied in the work of the Educational Opportunity Gap Oversight and Accountability Committee (EOGOAC), which releases an annual report to the legislature and governor. The report includes recommendations to recruit more teachers of color, raise the cultural competency of educators, and increase fairness in how school discipline policies are applied.

The Commission supports the EOGOAC’s comprehensive approach to address the opportunity gaps.

The recommendations will be considered during the legislative session through a bill sponsored by Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, chair of the House Education Committee.

Improving Health Equity

In 1946, the first nuclear test in the Marshall Islands occurred, followed by 66 more over the next decade. Seventy years later, the Marshallese continue to feel the economic and health effects of those tests.

In November, commissioners heard about the health disparities impacting the Marshallese community in Washington. Although migrants from the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau pay state and federal taxes, Congress excluded them from receiving Medicaid benefits.

The Commission is concerned about this injustice and will partner with these communities on ways the state can improve their health outcomes.

Read the full column via the International Examiner’s website.