The new law, which unanimously passed both the state Senate and House earlier this month, "strongly encourages" public schools to teach Holocaust curriculum.
Gov. Tom Corbett signed a Holocaust and genocide education bill into Pennsylvania state law on June 26.
The bill, which "strongly encourages" but does not require schools to teach Holocaust curriculum, had unanimously passed both the state Senate and House of Representatives earlier this month.
“Pennsylvania’s Jewish community applauds Governor Tom Corbett for signing this important legislation into law,” said Matt Handel, chairman of the Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition, in a news release. The new bill “ensures that Pennsylvania students will receive the best possible education about the Holocaust, genocide and human rights violations.”
The signing of the bill marks the end of a drawn out political battle. Many advocates of the Holocaust education legislation had lobbied to require the curriculum at all public schools but an attached mandate threatened to sink the legislation in the state Senate.
The board of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia endorsed the latest proposal in May, which did not include an upfront mandate.
"We're gratified that the general assembly and the governor recognize the importance of Holocaust education," Federation CEO Naomi Adler said in a statement. "We are delighted to celebrate this historic moment with the Jewish community."
The bill was sponsored by House of Representatives Majority Education Chairman Paul Clymer, a Republican from Bucks County, and directs the State Department of Education to create curriculum options to teach about the Holocaust and genocide with the help of organizations like the Shoah Foundation. The new law also calls for providing teachers with Holocaust education and training; establishes a statewide study to determine which schools are teaching the Holocaust and allows the Department of Education to require schools to offer such instruction if, after two years, fewer than 90 percent of schools are teaching the subject.
“Educating our students about our world’s historic atrocities creates an understanding of the need for tolerance and an understanding of the consequences of bigotry and hate,” Handel said. “We must never forget the horrors of what has happened so that we do not allow these tragic chapters of history to be repeated.”