Why do schools have Friday off? It’s the obscure state holiday of Admission Day
Mike Szymanski | August 29, 2017
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Friday is a day off in LA schools, but it’s not simply to turn Labor Day weekend into a four-day holiday. It’s Admission Day, a little-known state holiday that commemorates California being admitted into the United States as the 31st state on Sept. 9, 1850.
This year, LA Unified recognizes the Sept. 9 state birthday on Sept. 1. Last year, the school holiday was on Sept. 2, also to coordinate with the Labor Day holiday weekend.
Frankly, it’s tough to find a state agency other than schools that is taking the day off. The state unemployment office makes a note that it’s open that day. The state courthouses close on Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays, as well as César Chávez Day on March 31, but they don’t take off on Admission Day. Cal State Northridge observes Admission Day on Nov. 24, although most places acknowledge that it is “the day after Thanksgiving” holiday.
This paid holiday for teachers used to be a standard state holiday, but LA Unified is the only one of the largest California school districts that still observes it around Labor Day. It used to be a three-day celebration in San Francisco, and Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed an attempt to remove it as a state holiday in 1976 in his first term as governor. In 1984, Gov. George Deukmejian turned it into a “personal” holiday, which allowed state employees to take the day off without pay.
Brown tried to reinvigorate interest in the holiday in 2012 by issuing a proclamation saying that “California’s early history is too often neglected in schools and among our citizens.”
Some historians point to Jan. 16, 1847, as a more significant moment in California history because it marked the end of fighting between the Mexicans and Californians. That day was the signing of the Treaty of Cahuenga, which happened in the spot across the street from the entrance to Universal Studios in Studio City, where there is a historic adobe marking the event.
LA Unified’s school board has never offered a resolution recognizing Admission Day as a historic day, nor was the day important enough to take off when schools were on a multi-track schedule.
The school board acknowledges that there are some days when parents just keep their kids home — it costs the district about $32 per student when they don’t attend. That’s why the new school calendar gives the entire week of Thanksgiving off, because the three-day week in the past was sparsely attended. The Friday before Labor Day was also a lightly attended day. The district lost out on $640 million last year because of chronic absences, which will be the first focus of a new independent task force.
Other days off are labeled “unassigned days” that align with religious holidays, such as Sept. 21 this year, which marks the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah.
The time between Sept. 21 and the next holiday of Veteran’s Day on Nov. 10 is 35 school days. That’s the second-longest string of consecutive school days without a holiday, after the 39 consecutive school days between April 2 (an unassigned day, also Passover) and Memorial Day on May 28. The last day of this school year is June 7, 2018.