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Governor Dayton Discusses Disparities & Inclusion With CAAL Delegation

by Chai News

Governor Dayton engaged with leaders from the Coalition of Asian American Leaders, at his residence, on issues of economic disparities and inclusion in Minnesota. With Governor Dayton was Shawntera Hardy, Deputy Chief of Staff and Policy Advisor, Tenzin Dolkar.

Although the policy conversations had a distinct Asian American tone, the issues raised impacted all the ALANA (African Ldayton call2atino Asian and Native American) communities. The following were the key topics discussed.

The delegation commended Governor Dayton for his strong leadership on diversity and inclusion in Minnesota and within state government. The delegation discussed these four policy areas with the Governor.

  1. The need for policy makers to act with cultural intelligence and understand that the Asian American community is very diverse in terms of economic differences, culture, immigration status and educational levels.Governor Dayton had a keen understanding of this issue and thought that the State Demographer should be given the resources and charge to produce dis-aggregated data across the various ALANA communities to help make better policy actions.
  2. Top priority to close the achievement gap within the Asian American community and between the Asian American students and white students. Support for ELL programs with the understanding that dual language learners are an asset to Minnesota as a global competitor. Care that ELL placement should be based on language ability. Fluent English learners should not be automatically placed in ELL programs just because they looked Asian or had ethnic names. There is only one Asian American teacher for over 70 Asian American students compared to the 1:4 ratio for white students. Top priority should be given to recruit and place Asian American teachers in the school system. The average ACT scores for Asian students in the Saint Paul school system was around 18 indicating that they are not college ready. This is a major crisis that needs to be addressed.Governor Dayton listened attentively and discussed this issue with CAAL leaders asking a number of clarifying statements. 
  3. Asian Americans have the highest educational and professional qualifications but they face a “bamboo ceiling” as they are not in top positions within the state system and in the private sector.Shawntera Hardy discussed the efforts of the Dayton Administration to address structural changes that prevented ALANA communities from being appointed. She stated that the Dayton Administration “is very intentional about structural change in the state system.” 
  4. Latest data showed a decline in the economic assets in the Asian American community with data showing the Hmong community hit hard during the period 2007-13. Further the decline in manufacturing cost many their jobs and a sharp decline in the living conditions.Latest data reported in DEED’s Economic Trends showed Asian Americans in both the high wage and low wage industries. There was need to ensure that workforce programs reach Asian American workers and ethnic organizations serving these workers.Asian American businesses are also growing very rapidly in both the high tech as well as at the neighborhood level. Data shows that the level of utilization of minority businesses in Minnesota has remained at the stagnant and low level around 1 percent of total state spending. The Governor should lead the effort to implement state statute 16 C that authorizes a 25 percent utilization of small and minority businesses in the state but has never been implemented. The Governor should enhance strategies that leverage cultural assets as an economic development tool, such as Little Mekong in Saint Paul, the state should fund a cultural and arts business incubator.

    Given the recent report of D. Sam Myers of the Humphrey School that banks were discrimination against ALANA members, the state should take pro-active measures and ask financial institutions doing business in the state to address the issue of discrimination in lending and increase their loan activity in ALANA communities.

    The Governor was presented with the December edition of DEED’s Economic Trends that has an excellent compilation of articles analyzing how the ALANA communities are needed to address Minnesota’s labor shortage. Also included was an article by Dr. Bruce Corrie on strategies to eliminate economic disparities in Minnesota.

    Governor Dayton appreciated the report on Economic Trends and the article on solutions to economic disparities and in particular the chart that showed the decline in economic assets across various ALANA communities. He explored the issues around business utilization in reference to State Statute 16 c.

Governor Dayton was very gracious and hospitable to the community leaders, listening attentively and engagingly in conversations around these topics. He also personally went out of his way to make everyone feel welcome.

CAAL’s delegation included the following leaders: Bo Thao-Urabe (Executive Director), Margie Andreason, KaohLy Vang Her, KaYing Yang, Dr. Rose Chu and Dr. Bruce Corrie. The delegation offered the support of CAAL to help the Governor and his administration design and implement systems and processes that will take diversity and inclusion issues to the next level in Minnesota.

Though Governor Dayton did not give specific responses to the different questions raised, CAAL leaders hoped that this conversation would help the Governor create conditions to include Asian Americans among top leaders in state government and to integrate the unique needs of the diverse communities in various state programs and policies.