Mayor de Blasio yesterday announced that New York would become the first major American city to close its public schools for Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, the Muslim holy days. But in a disappointment to activists in Chinatown, he did not act on a proposal to create a school holiday for Lunar New Year.
In December, the governor signed legislation allowing the city to declare a holiday for the Chinese New Year. Local elected officials, including Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, State Sen. Daniel Squadron and City Council member Margaret Chin had been pushing the legislation for several years. In the past, the mayor has expressed support for the idea. This is what he had to say about the topic yesterday:
I’m going to keep working on that with the (schools) chancellor. What we’ve found in this process is that we are in a very tight situation… with the number of days that we have to achieve each year, so it’s going to take more work to get to that. We remain focused on it, but it will take more work, because we have to balance a lot of factors.
Council member Chin put out a statement about the mayor’s decision:
I am very pleased that Mayor de Blasio has designated Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha as official public school holidays, because this shows the deep respect our city has for the Muslim community. Lunar New Year—an equally important time for the Asian-American community—has not yet been designated as an official public school holiday. Asian-American families across the city are still forced to choose between celebrating this annual holiday and sending their children to school. I believe that Mayor de Blasio has previously expressed his support for designating Lunar New Year as an official public school holiday. I will continue to discuss this issue with Mayor de Blasio and his staff, and I will do everything in my power to advocate for the designation of Lunar New Year as an official public school holiday for 2016 and beyond.
Sen. Squadron did the same:
Adding Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha to the school calendar is an important recognition of the diversity of our city. It’s great that the Mayor kept his pledge to designate them as school holidays. It’s critical that the Mayor also keep his pledge to designate Lunar New Year as a school holiday. At schools in my district and across the city, absentee rates are as high as 80% on Lunar New Year. Approximately one in six New York City public school students is Asian American, which is why acting on the mayor’s pledge is so important, so that students no longer have to choose between their most important cultural holiday and missing class.