When will Lunar New Year become an official school holiday?
More than 40 elected officials, advocacy groups, and community leaders — including State Senator Marty Golden, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, and Senator Nydia Velazquez — wrote a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio last week, accusing him of failing to discuss the addition of the Chinese New Year to the school calendar in May as promised.
When the mayor released the 2015-16 school calendar in March, it included two Muslim holidays — Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr — but not Lunar New Year, despite de Blasio’s earlier pledge to include the Asian holiday. Many Asian parents keep their children home for Lunar New Year, forcing students to miss a day of classes.
At the time, elected officials say the city promised to meet them in May to discuss a detailed analysis from the Department of Education [DOE] on including Lunar New Year as a school holiday, but that deadline has passed.
Wiley Norvell, de Blasio’s deputy press secretary, told outlets this that city is still trying to figure out whether holiday could be added to future school calendars.
“We have identified years ahead that would prove problematic, and are working to identify alternatives that enable us to add Lunar New Year and maintain the legally mandated number of school days,” he said.
Norvell acknowledged de Blasio’s pledge to add the holiday to the DOE calendar, but pointed out that that the mayor never offered a time frame. It certainly won’t happen for the 2015-2016 school year, he told outlets.
New York State Senate passed a bill — sponsored by Golden and others — Tuesday to make Lunar New Year a school holiday for New York City public schools, or in cities of more than 1 million with an Asian population of 7.5 percent or more.
Golden applauded the passage of the bill — which has been sent to the Assembly — in a statement this week.
“Today, the New York State Senate has fulfilled its promise to the Asian American community by passing a law making the Lunar New Year an official school holiday,” said Golden on Tuesday. “According to recent statistics, Asian-American students comprise approximately 15 percent of all public school students. I urge my colleagues in the State Assembly to join the Senate in taking this action so that we can allow students to spend this important holiday with their families without the stress of missing school. As legislators, it is vitally important that we work tirelessly to ensure our State remains culturally sensitive and promotes our ethnic diversity.”
The bill cites 2014 legislation approved by Governor Andrew Cuomo directing school districts to determine whether school session should be held on days when it is likely that a considerable portion of the student population will be absent due to religious or cultural day observance.
Lunar New Year is considered one of the most important holidays in Asian culture. One in six New York City school children are Asian, say advocates. According to the most recent census data, one in eight New Yorkers is Asian.