CPR training is now required for high school graduation in Pennsylvania, thanks to bipartisan legislation passed by the legislature and signed by the governor last week. The news coverage I’ve seen of the new law, known as Act 7, has been uniformly positive. And I agree that widespread CPR training will help save lives.
But let me also be a bit of a contrarian among all the applause being given to this new law.
First, this legislation follows a now well-worn path of state lawmakers mandating new educational requirements without providing the resources necessary resources to make them happen. While our state representatives are patting themselves on the back for supporting this new school mandate, it will fall to local taxpayers to pay for the curricular materials, training, and teaching staff necessary to fulfill this mandate. The new law is, in effect, a hidden tax increase. The state should not dictate new mandates to schools unless it is prepared to also fund them, no matter how worthy the goals. (I talk about this principle more generally in my Passing the Buck post.)
The state should not dictate new mandates to schools unless it is prepared to also fund them.
Second, nowhere have I seen any of the new law’s supporters talk about what education this new CPR training will replace. This too is a common pattern in discussions of new school curriculum and new state mandates. The amount of time in each school day does not increase with this new law. As a result, the new CPR training will necessarily have to come at the expense of dropping training and education in other areas. So what should be dropped or scaled back to make room for this new mandate? Fire safety? Drug and alcohol awareness? Nutrition? Fitness? I don’t really know, but I sure wish this was part of the debate before the rush to pass the new mandate.
CPR training is extremely valuable and may very well be an appropriate requirement for high school. But passing unfunded laws in Harrisburg, without knowing what the training will replace, is the wrong way to do it.