New York City

NYC officials intensify push for Lunar New Year school holiday

Comes on heels of school holidays for Muslins

March 13, 2015 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Officials and the Asian-American community rallied at City Hall on Friday to urge the city to designate the Lunar New Year as an official school holiday. Photo by Yuh-line Niou
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New York City officials and members of the Asian-American community rallied on the steps of City Hall on Friday to urge the city to designate the Lunar New Year as an official school holiday.

This action comes on the heels of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s recent announcement that New York City public schools will close during two Muslim holidays, Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr.

State Sen. Daniel Squadron, Comptroller Scott Stringer, Assemblymember Ron Kim and Congressmember Grace Meng (both representing Flushing) and other officials say the mayor promised Asian-Americans the school holiday during his campaign.

On March 9, Kim and Squadron spearheaded a letter signed by 18 elected officials asking that the mayor remember his pledge.

“When you ran for mayor, and again when you took office, you made a pledge to recognize Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha and Lunar New Year as school holidays,” the letter reads in part. “This year, Lunar New Year fell during an already scheduled winter break, but we cannot depend on the luck of the calendar. In 2016, Lunar New Year falls on Monday, February 8.”

“Absentee rates are as high as 80 percent on Lunar New Year in certain schools in my district and across the city,” Sen. Squadron said. “Acting on the Mayor’s pledge is critical so that students no longer have to choose between their most important cultural holiday and missing class.”

“For far too long, Asian American kids, including myself, grew up in this city feeling marginalized and ‘un-American’ for celebrating their culture,” Assemblymember Kim said.

“Our public school schedule must recognize the growing diversity of our city’s children and the holidays they celebrate,” Comptroller Stringer said. “Parents should not have to choose between sending their kids to school or celebrating the Lunar New Year with their family.”

At a March 4 press conference to announce the Muslim school holidays, Mayor de Blasio responded to questions about adding Lunar New Year to the holiday calendar.

“I’m going to keep working on that with the chancellor,” he told reporters. “What we’ve found in this process is that we are in a very tight situation, as I said, with the number of days that we have to achieve each year, so it’s going to take more work to get to that.”

Asian-American students comprise approximately 15 percent of all public school students in New York City, according to Sen. Squadron. Lunar New Year is the most important cultural celebration on the Asian calendar. 

Currently, students who celebrate the Lunar New Year holiday receive an “excused” absence, meaning they miss a full day of classes and have the absence marked on their record.

Councilmember Margaret Chin at the podium. Photo by Yuh-line NiouOther officials backing the holiday include State Sen. Marty Golden (R-Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights), City Councilmembers Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst), Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-Red Hook, Sunset Park, Bensonhurst), Peter Koo (D-Flushing), Mark Treyger (D-Coney Island, Bensonhurst), Margaret Chin (D-lower Manhattan), Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez (D- Red Hook, Sunset Park), Pauline Chu (President of the Chinese-American Parents Association) and more.

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