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Squadron, other officials urge de Blasio to add Lunar New Year as school holiday

Asian-Americans Are 15 Percent of City’s P.S. Students

June 10, 2015 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Officials and the Asian-American community rallied at City Hall in March to urge the city to designate the Lunar New Year as an official school holiday. Photo by Yuh-line Niou
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State Sen. Daniel Squadron, Assemblymember Ron Kim, U.S. Rep. Grace Meng and Councilmember Margaret Chin recently urged Mayor Bill de Blasio to add Lunar New Year as a school holiday.

A letter signed by more than 40 elected officials and community advocates asked de Blasio to meet with the group to discuss the results of a Department of Education (DOE) analysis of the city’s student body and to keep a campaign pledge he made to include Lunar New Year.      

“You made a pledge, both before your election and after becoming mayor, to add Lunar New Year to the school calendar as a holiday,” the letter reads. “As your policy stands today, children must miss class when celebrating their most important cultural celebration.”

“We look forward to sitting down with your administration to review the DOE analysis, and to make progress on adding Lunar New Year as a school holiday for the 2015-16 calendar.”

The Brooklyn elected officials who signed the letter include the aforementioned state Sen. Squadron (D-Downtown Brooklyn-Lower Manhattan), U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan-Queens-Williamsburg), U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan-Borough Park-Gravesend-Kensington), U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-Bushwick-Red Hook-Sunset Park), Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and state Sen. Marty Golden (R-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst).

In March, de Blasio released the 2015-16 school calendar without including Lunar New Year (also known as Chinese New Year) as a school holiday, despite his public pledges to do so. In a meeting later that month, administration officials promised some of the above-mentioned elected officials a detailed DOE analysis on including Lunar New Year as a school holiday for completion in May.

Asian-American students comprise approximately 15 percent of all public school students in New York City. Absentee rates in some schools have been reported to be as high as 80 percent on Lunar New Year. In 2014, Kim and Squadron passed legislation requiring DOE to consider closing schools if a holiday is likely to result in “a considerable proportion” of students being absent. Lunar New Year falls on a school day next year on Feb. 8, 2016.

“The administration should not wait another year to keep its promises on Lunar New Year,” Squadron said. “In addition to the mayor’s pledge to implement a Lunar New Year school holiday, the administration said it would engage in May — now it’s June.”

“The Asian Lunar New Year is the most important holiday of the year for the Asian-American community, and it’s time and appropriate for the Department of Education to recognize this and close the schools on this important holiday and allow families to celebrate the Lunar New Year together,” Nadler said.

The borough president additionally supports adding the holiday.

“Our students who observe Lunar New Year should not have to choose between their cultural and educational obligations,” Adams said. “I stand with my elected colleagues and advocates who are working to make this important observance a school holiday.”

Golden said, “Our city is rich with much Asian culture and heritage, and it is only fair that we recognize fully the special meaning of this holiday. It should no longer be necessary for our school children and teachers, to miss a day of school and work respectively, to celebrate Lunar New Year.”

-Information from Squadron’s Office

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