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Holocaust Education Bill Passes Unanimously in State Senate
Note: This story updates a previous version to reflect a more accurate descrption of the legislative measure.
The state Senate on Wednesday unanimously passed a Holocaust and genocide education bill.
The bill, which passed with a 49-0 vote, now returns to the state House, where it was initially proposed by Rep. Paul Clymer, a Republican from Bucks County.
The legislation "strongly encourages " but does not require schools to teach Holocaust curriculum. That had been a sticking point for some Holocaust education advocates, but there appears to be greater consensus in the wake of the bill receiving bipartisan support in the Senate.
The legislation calls for providing teachers with Holocaust education and training; establishes a statewide study to determine which schools are teaching the Holocaust and calls for the State Department of Education to require schools to offer such instruction if, after two years, fewer than 90 percent of schools are teaching the subject. It also directs the Department of Education to create a statewide curriculum with the help of organizations like the Shoah Foundation.
Chuck Feldman, president of the Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center at the Klein JCC, had been among those who saw a mandate as essential for the bill to be effective.
He said that while the museum would have preferred an amendment proposed by another senator that included an upfront requirement for schools, "This was a major step forward and we are very happy that this passed, and we are looking forward to having additional programming based on the fact that schools will now be strongly enouraged to do more Holocaust education."
The bill will likely move through the House quickly, according to Matt Handel, who chairs the Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition, which represents Jewish federations in Harrisburg.
"A vote of 49 to nothing," he said. "shows that this is an issue that transcends party lines."