House Advances Holocaust Education Legislation

ClymerToday the House unanimously adopted a bill by Rep. Paul Clymer (R-145, Quakertown) providing for Holocaust education in Pennsylvania public schools.

HB 1424 empowers public school districts to offer curriculum dealing with the Holocaust, at any grade level. The legislation allows educators to receive continuing education credits for academic programs on the Holocaust that they attend.

The bill was championed by the Anti-Defamation League of Eastern Pennsylvania/Southern New Jersey working with Rep. Clymer who introduced the measure. HB 1424 had 35 co-sponsors – including Majority Leader Rep. Mike Turzai (noteworthy because he rarely co-sponsors legislation) – of which 18 were Republican and 17 were Democrat.

Every Jewish member of the Pennsylvania House was a co-sponsor of the bill. The three Jewish House members are: Rep. Michael Schlossberg (D-132, Allentown), Rep. Mark Cohen (D-202, Philadelphia), and Rep. Dan Frankel (D-23, Pittsburgh). As the bill was adopted, Rep. Schlossberg and Rep. Cohen took to the House floor to press the legislature to eventually adopt mandated education on the Holocaust, rather than a simple suggestion to school districts that they do so.

Yes, unfortunately, in no way does HB 1424 mandate the teaching of the Holocaust. Last session, Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-170, Philadelphia) introduced a similar measure in May 2012which would have required public school students to learn about the Holocaust. HB 2396 garnered 23 co-sponsors, including Rep. Clymer. There were five Republicans and 18 Democrats on the bill.

Rep. Boyle introduced an amendment on the floor to mandate the education,A02263, changing “may” to “shall” throughout the bill. Above you can see moving remarks delivered to House members by Rep. Schlossberg. The amendment failed in a 99-99 vote, with every Democrat voting for it. The Democrats were joined by the following nine Republicans in calling for Holocaust education to be mandated in the Commonwealth:

Rep. Mike Fleck (R-81, Huntingdon)
Rep. Mark Gillen (R-128, Reading)
Rep. Lee James (R-64, Senaca)
Rep. John Maher (R-40, Bethel Park)
Rep. Carl Metzgar (R-69, Somerset)
Rep. Thomas Murt (R-152, Hatboro)
Rep. Scott Petri (R-178, Richboro)
Rep. Mario Scavello (R-176, Stroudsburg)
Rep. Todd Stephens (R-151, North Wales)

HB 1424 now sits in the Senate Education Committee. We do not yet know if Senate Education Committee Chair Sen. Mike Folmer will take up the bill.

Pennsylvania funded Holocaust education in our Commonwealth’s schools until 2009, when Gov. Ed Rendell, who is Jewish, cut the $60,000 line item from the state budget. That funding was distributed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education to the Pennsylvania Holocaust Education Council for educational programs and trainings.

CommonGround PA strongly supports a mandate of Holocaust education for every student in the commonwealth.

[Update: Video of Rhonda Fink-Whitman interviewing Pennsylvania public school graduates about the Holocaust added November 16, 2013]

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