NYC Public Schools Can Designate Lunar New Year as a Holiday

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

New York City’s Department of Education must consider making Lunar New Year a public school holiday, according to a new law signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday night.

The law requires the education department to consider closing individual public schools or district-wide during religious or cultural days of observances if it leads to a “considerable proportion” of students being absent, China Daily reports. Cities with an Asian population of more than 7.5 percent in an overall population of more than one million must designate Lunar New Year a public holiday.

An estimated 1.2 million documented and undocumented Asian Americans reside in New York City, about 13 percent of the total population. Around 1 in 6 public school students is Asian American, and several schools in Chinatown and Flushing, Queens have previously reported a 40 percent drop in attendance during Lunar New Years.

“This is a long time coming. This is such an important bill to really show that we have the honor to celebrate our culture and diversity, and to recognize the contribution of Asian Americans to this country and to this city,” Margaret Chin, a New York City Council member, told China Daily.

The proposal was backed by State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, State Senator Daniel Squadron, Assemblyman Ron Kim of Queens and U.S. Congresswoman Grace Meng, who had previously served in Albany. The Korea Times US reports that Councilman Peter Koo and community leaders from the Korean American Voters’ Council and the Korean American Family Service Center also supported the proposal.

The 2015 Lunar New Year will fall on Feb. 19 during the students’ winter break, but the law will allow the city to declare a Lunar New Year holiday in future years.

Photo courtesy of The Lo-Down