[Update: Damn. This is why I don't ordinarily try to do the work of an actual journalist-- this story has been zigging and zagging all day. I have updated accordingly. I suppose I could rewrite the earlier version and pretend that I haven't had to revise, but that seems cheaty.]
This morning I updated you on the progress of Ethan's Act, the bill in the Florida capitol that was proposing the incredibly radical notion that maybe children suffering through extraordinary difficulties should be easily released from their mandate to take the states Big Test. If you've forgotten the backstory, go read. I'll wait.
The news this morning was that the language Ethan's Act had been attached to an accountability measure, HB 7117. Ethan's name was erased, but perhaps the bill itself would still serve as a legacy.
Comes word this afternoon that HB 7117 is a huge smelly manurefest of a bill that nobody likes, and that its backers were simply trying to absorb Ethan's Law as a piece of political protective covering. State Rep. Karen Castor Dentel has been played, and Andrea Pratt Rediske has to absorb yet another insult in her pursuit of what should be common sense.
[Update: Some folks have taken to e-mail to assure me that this bill is not all that terrible. I'm not a Floridian-- I don't know what passes for non-terrible in Florida education. But at the very least, I need to acknowledge that not all Floridians hate the bill.]
[Update: One other interpretation of events is that this was maneuvering to get the language of the original bill into law without allowing anyone to score political points from it. Can't have a pesky anti-test activist mom getting credit for anything, nor would we want to memorialize a reminder of just how screwed-up the Florida laws have been. Remember-- we only memorialize child victims if they weren't a victim of the actual government.
It has also been noted-- correctly, as I read the language-- that the new language is actually stronger than the original version of Ethan's Law]
The people who have been vocally supporting this crusade now find themselves having to oppose a bill that would have brought Rediske's dream to fruition, while the very people who blocked the advance of Ethan's Law (like Rep. Adkins) try to use the story of this grieving parent to further their own agenda. I know politics are politics, but exactly how low do you have to stoop in order to make opportunistic use of the death of an 11-year-old boy?
The bill involves, among other things, a trade-off of a three year delay for a one-year pause. Florida parents don't believe one year is sufficient to wait on implementing full on "accountability measures" (the usual crap soup of testing etc), and that aspect has been a sticking point. The bill sticks with the grading of schools as well, which people are unhappy about in FL. And it attempts to create a "smooth transition" for Florida education.
In this video, you can find Rep. Adkins making her impassioned plea (at the 1:36:00 mark). She manages to use Ethan Rediske as a political prop without even naming him or the bill that she has co-opted, and she invokes her own motherhood and speaks with oh-so-much-deep feelings. She has allllll the feelings. Schools need to be graded so that schools feel urgency to do a good job (because schools never work well unless they're threatened). But let's not talk about that. Let's remind you all how much you want to do something rational and right for special needs students.
I am as sad and angry as I have ever been at politicians. This is so cynical and nasty and just wrong. Make no mistake-- HB 7117 is a bill that completely deserves to die. But today the Florida House Appropriations subcommittee voted it out of committee, and so it will next make its way toward a vote. It deserves to die. Ethan's Law does not. Can anybody, somebody, somewhere, find at least one Florida legislator with the guts, the brains, the savvy, and the conscience to do the right thing here?
[Update: The good-ish news is that FEA, FSBA and Sup't Association are all now reportedly recommending passage of HB 7117. Likewise, word comes that there is work going on to fix some of the problem areas of the bill-- most notably the one year pause. So it is possible that things may work out well in the end.]