Chinese laud NY New Year holiday bill

Updated: 2014-05-21 11:21

By Amy He in New York (China Daily USA)

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 Chinese laud NY New Year holiday bill

Kids enjoy the Chinese New Year Parade in New York City's Chinatown on Feb 2. Provided to China Daily

Chinese families in New York are awaiting Governor Andrew Cuomo's signature on a bill that will stop them from deciding whether to send their children to school on the Lunar New Year or keep them home to celebrate the major Chinese holiday.

Cuomo is expected to sign a bill passed by the State Legislature on May 13 that would let schools close on the Chinese Lunar New Year or other days when religious or cultural observances will keep most of their students at home.

Phil Gim, senior adviser to the Asian Cultural Federation, grew up in Chinatown, told China Daily: "I grew up in New York's Chinatown and when I went to school, it's either we miss school or we celebrate on our own. That was a dilemma that we had. Education is important and we didn't want to miss a day of school or miss a test. That was my experience throughout my time in school, so it's good for Asian families that we can get to celebrate, but on the other hand, students don't have to worry that they're missing something important."

Gim said he thought it has taken a long time to get the legislation "because we did not show our political voting strength, meaning that now you get a whole lot more Asian Americans who are registered voters, and people are paying more attention to our needs and desires."

Wellington Chen, executive director of the Chinatown Partnership, said the bill has been a long time coming. "In Flushing, they're waiting, and in Sunset Park, they're waiting," said Chen.

"Passage of this bill to push the Lunar New Year school holiday is proof that momentum is building, and that this community's importance is greater across the city every single day," State Senator Daniel Squadron, who sponsored the bill, said at a press conference on May 16.

He said that according to city school records, the absentee rate at P.S. 124 in Chinatown on this past Lunar New Year, in February, was more than 60 percent, and the absentee rate at P.S. 130, which serves Chinatown and Little Italy sections, was around 80 percent.

"It's important that our city recognize Lunar New Year by allowing children to spend time with their families," said State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. "Parents should not have to choose between celebrating their cultural heritage and their children's learning time at school."

US Congress member Carolyn Maloney said that the push for Lunar New Year school closure so "inspired" her that she plans to see if it can be implemented on the national level. "I'm definitely taking this idea back to Washington," she said.

Cuomo's signature aside, students will be off for next year's Lunar New Year because the holiday falls on Feb 19 during the scheduled winter break.