Avella bill to make St. Patrick’s Day school holiday passes in Senate

Avella bill to make St. Patrick’s Day school holiday passes in Senate
Photo by Michael Shain
By Mark Hallum

A bill that would make St. Patrick’s Day a school holiday in the state of New York passed the Senate chamber Monday.

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside)has been trying for recognition of the culture and religious observation of the Irish and Catholic celebration for over a year and is hoping to make the bill into law. The bill passed the Senate in March 2016, although it failed to get the required votes in the Assembly.

“With the passage of my bill establishing St. Patrick’s Day as a school holiday in New York City schools, the Senate can proudly celebrate this holiday every year knowing they’ve done their part in paying tribute to the contributions of the Irish community,” Avella said. “It is a shame that the city that invented the St. Patrick’s Day celebration refuses to do the same. I urge my colleagues in the Assembly to pass this legislation and send a message to the mayor that this disregard for cultural and religious celebrations has no place in our state.”

Although New York City has a high concentration of Irish Americans as well as a parade going back to 1762, Avella said it does not receive the recognition given in Ireland as not only a celebration of one’s culture but of religion.

Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Rockaway Beach) is sponsoring the bill for the school holiday in hopes it will pass and earn a signature from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

But Mayor Bill de Blasio took action to kill the motion in the Senate an Assembly in a letter sent from his office to lawmakers outlining why the holiday would be detrimental to schools.

“The New York City Department of Education develops its school calendar to maximize the number of instructional days for students, while balancing educational, contractual and legal requirements and considerations,” the letter said. “To the extent possible, DOE also aims to avoid conflicts with religious and cultural holidays and occasions, but given the enormous diversity of the city, not all occasions can be accommodated with a system-wide holiday.”

The letter continued to point out that since 2015, Muslim holidays Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha and later the Lunar New Year for Asian American students, there are not enough classroom days left in the year to designate another school holiday.

“While the City recognizes the rich legacy and contributions of Irish-Americans, our attendance records in schools across the district do not reflect absenteeism on March 17,” the letter from de Blasio’s office said.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.