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Queens Chronicle

Lunar New Year day off gets another chance

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Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:26 am, Thu Feb 14, 2013.

Flushing lawmakers have again called upon the city to make the Asian Lunar New Year a school holiday, citing a high absence rate that counts on students’ records.

Congresswoman Grace Meng, state Sen. Toby Stavisky, Assemblyman Ron Kim and Councilman Peter Koo, all Flushing democrats, were joined by Chinatown state Sen. Dan Squadron (D-Manhattan) to ask the absences during the annual celebration not be counted.

“New York’s Asian-American community deserves the same respect and consideration as others,” Stavisky said. “Lunar New Year is a time when families, from near and far, come together to celebrate. A holiday for schools with large Asian-American student bodies, like many schools in Flushing and other areas of New York City, would show deference and appreciation for the Lunar New Year. In some parts around the country, the weeks of Lunar New Year are celebrated by local governments and municipalities with real private-public partnerships, like free train and bus rides to Chinatown.”

Students taking the day off to celebrate the holiday are marked with an “excused absence” under current rules. Some schools experience heavy absentee rates during the holiday, with PS 130 in Downtown Manhattan reporting an 80 percent rate last year, the lawmakers said.

Kim and Squadron have taken up a bill originally pushed by then-Assemblywoman Meng and the senator which would make the day of the Asian Lunar New Year a school holiday in municipalities with Asian-American populations of at least 7.5 percent.

In an effort to bolster support for the bill, Squadron and Kim have built a coalition around legislation that would benefit immigrants called the “New Americans Task Force.” The lawmakers also circulated an internal comprehensive memo that led to more cosponsors signing onto the bill than previous attempts.

“Making the Lunar New Year a school holiday would recognize the important customs and culture of Asian Americans, and it would highlight the vital role that the Asian-American community plays in our city,” Meng said.

The lawmakers also asked the city’s Department of Education transfer the day off for students and professional development day for teachers currently observed on Brooklyn Queens Day in June to the Lunar New Year.

Joseph Orovic

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