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Capitol Hill Calls for Lunar New Year Holiday

Local Lawmaker’s Resolution Seeks Federal Holiday For Day Of Celebration

Rep. Grace Meng recently introduced a measure into Congress that aims to create a school holiday for the Lunar New Year, which the Asian-American community is set to celebrate on Friday, Jan. 31.

Meng’s measure, a Congressional resolution, encourages local education agencies serving a substantial Asian- American population to close schools on Lunar New Year in recognition of the cultural significance of the holiday. Local education agencies include entities that operate public schools such as school districts, school boards and departments of education.

“Lunar New Year is celebrated by well over 8.7 million Asian- Americans in the United States, as well as by many non-Asian- Americans,” said Meng. “It’s the most important holiday of the year for the Asian-American community, and Asian-American students should not be forced to choose between celebrating with family or missing school. Students of many other cultures and ethnicities rightly have off for the most important holidays they observe, and kids who celebrate Lunar New Year should be afforded the same.”

Meng noted that students who miss school for Lunar New Year are not only marked absent but can suffer from academic consequences since they may miss scheduled exams and pop quizzes while they are out. She also noted that communities with significant Asian- American populations annually experience a large number of student or teacher absences on Lunar New Year.

Closing schools on the holiday in these communities would reduce the waste in government resources necessitated by holding school open on a day when a substantial portion of the student or teacher population is absent, according to Meng.

While serving in the New York State Assembly, Meng introduced legislation to establish a school holiday for Lunar New Year in New York municipalities with significant Asian American populations of at least 7.5 percent. She also urged then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg to close New York City schools for the Lunar New Year.

In addition, Meng sponsored legislation that passed the Assembly requiring boards of education or school trustees to determine if a school should be closed on a day when student attendance is likely to be exceptionally low due to a religious or cultural day of observance. The measure was intended to examine whether the student absenteeism would result in a waste of educational resources.

In New York City, students who miss school due to the holiday receive an “excused” absence. However, the absence is still marked on their record. The city Department of Education reported that 15.42 percent of the children in the public school system are Asian-American.

Lunar New York is celebrated around the world including in Asian communities throughout America. Celebrations include festivals, cultural performances and parades. It is a time for celebrants to spend the day with family and friends, Meng noted.

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