Pol to mayor: Let kids lift off on Lunar New Year

Horsing around: Celebrate the lunar New Year in Brooklyn
Photo by Carol Rosegg

The city should hurry up and give schoolkids Lunar New Year off now that it has declared two Muslim holidays stay-home days, according to a Dumbo pol.

State Sen. Daniel Squadron, who also represents Manhattan’s Chinatown, pushed through state legislation last year aimed at making the holiday widely celebrated in Asian cultures an official school holiday. Mayor DeBlasio and the education department’s announcement last week that Islamic holy days Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr are being made official days off irked Squadron, who pointed out that DeBlasio promised to move on Lunar New Year.

“The evolution of the school calendar is a testament to the diversity of the city,” Squadron said. “The mayor made a pledge and it should be kept.”

Lunar landing: Schools in neighborhoods with large populations of people of Asian descent such as Sunset Park see absence rates of as high as 90 percent on Lunar New Year, according to a pol.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

Lunar New Year is the biggest day of the year for many Asian societies. Nearly 90 percent of students in some areas of the city, including Sunset Park, are absent from school when Lunar New Year falls on a weekday, Squadron said. With Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D–Red Hook) and now-indicted Assemblyman Sheldon Silver (D–Manhattan), Squadron introduced a law requiring city education departments examine whether to make holidays with high rates of absences official school holidays. It passed last year.

One Chinese mom who observes the holiday says the city is disrespecting her people by keeping it a normal school day.

“I have to make a hard decision every year about whether to keep the kids home to celebrate the holiday,” said Melody Mei, who lives in Bensonhurst and has children in fifth and second grades. “They dress up in the dragon costumes and they are very proud of this. The school should show that they value my children’s culture.”

State Sen. Daniel Squadron
Daniel Squadron

DeBlasio justified reneging on his promise to list Lunar New Year for the upcoming school year by saying that there is less wiggle room than he thought in the school calendar.

“What we have 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,” said Deblasio. “We remain focused on it, but it will take more work, because we have to balance a lot of factors.”

Squadron countered that it is not all that hard to find extra school days.

United in support: PS-IS 30 student Farzana Ali and schools chancellor Carmen Farina applaud the news that students will get two Muslim holy days off starting this summer.
Photo by Georgine Benvenuto

“There are any number of other days on the school on the calendar,” said Squadron. “Every time you change the calendar, it needs to be done thoughtfully and careful. The mayor made a pledge to do it.”

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.