Two Pennsylvania lawmakers from opposite ends of the state are hoping to roll back a budget cut from last year that axed funding for Holocaust education.
State Rep. Matt Bradford, a Montgomery County Democrat, has drafted legislation that would restore the funding. He plans to introduce the bill this week.
State Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Squirrel Hill, is co-sponsoring the measure.
About $60,000 in funding for Holocaust education in Pennsylvania was cut from the 2009-2010 state budget by the office of Gov. Edward Rendell. That cut left no state funds designated for Holocaust education in the commonwealth.
The Holocaust education funds were part of a broader ethnic heritage line item in the Department of Education’s budget. Over the last several years, the Department of Education distributed the $60,000 to the Pennsylvania Holocaust Education Council, a volunteer organization that is made up of both active and retired teachers. The organization provides grants to teachers for educational materials, to bring survivors to their schools, and to help fund field trips.
“Governor Rendell was faced with a very difficult budget this year,” Bradford told The Chronicle. “But I don’t believe funding for Holocaust education is the appropriate place to make the cut.”
“We need to be teaching tolerance,” Bradford continued. “We need to let our kids know that history has shown time and again the possibility of man’s indifference to other human life. Sixty thousand dollars in a $29 billion budget is a cut we shouldn’t be making.”
“Sixty thousand dollars is a small amount,” he said. “I personally am prepared to find a way to pay for it.”
In order to generate new revenue for the state to help finance programs such as Holocaust education, Frankel is supporting passage of the Marcellus Shale natural gas extraction tax. He has also introduced a bill that would increase the tax on tobacco.
“These are two things we ought to be looking at. They would go a long way to restore small but important items in the budget like Holocaust education.”
The funding is essential statewide in providing teachers with the pedagogy required to teach the Holocaust in the classroom, according to Edie Naveh, director of the Holocaust Center of the United Jewish Federation.
In Pittsburgh, she said the funding helps send teachers to summer seminars at the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C., as well as to various seminars throughout the year,
“For us, it would be a really wonderful reinstatement,” Naveh said. “When we don’t have these moneys from the state, then we have to raise them during the year.”
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)