Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Turn-Down Day. If the title means anything to you, you're likely a baby-boomer like I am, although if you remember the song, it was about a summer's day and not one in late February with morning temperatures barely hitting positive territory. Don't worry about that, the name of the artist and a link to the rest of the lyrics will be at the bottom of this entry.

Anyway, back in zip code 55155 on Planet Earth, it was a quiet day at the Legislature. A number of education committees met, but most of the work was of a perfunctory nature. The bills that received the greatest amount of discussion were HF 3043, authored by Representative Jeremy Kalin (DFL-North Branch), a bill that provides for computer-adaptive assessments in reading and math that was heard in the House E-12 Policy Committee Wednesday morning. There was a lot of discussion of the bill and the bill is going to get more attention before a final decision is made as to whether or not to include it in this year's package of education policies. It was a part of the House version of the omnibus E-12 education bill last year, but the Senate had no comparable position and the provision was not included in the conference committee report that was sent to the Governor.

Here is a link to HF 3043. Note that there is a bill summary on the status page for the bill.

HF 3043: http://https//

The other bill that was the subject of spirited discussion was Representative Andy Welti's (DFL-Plainview) HF 664, a bill that would create a model mental health curriculum for school districts. This bill is not a mandate that schools implement a mental health curriculum, but instead simply encouragement that schools do and instructs the Minnesota Department of Education, in consultation with mental health professionals, to put assist districts in putting together age-appropriate instructional materials dealing with mental health issues for use if the district chooses to offer courses relating to the subject.

Mental health issues are always a touchy subject in the education community. I don't think there's any disagreement that programs that pay attention to the mental health of students are important, but there's friction over whether school districts truly have any standing in these matters or if parents alone should be the primary arbiter in instances relating to their children's mental health. I don't believe the Welti bill steps over any line of parental control, as it merely encourages that school districts offer a mental health curriculum and there is no change in how the identification of children with mental health issues is handled. There is concern that there are not sufficient personnel resources at the Minnesota Department of Education to put together the model curriculum, as continued cuts to the department over the past two decades have created a manpower shortage there.

Here is a link to HF 664. Note, as was the case with HF 3043, a bill summary can be accessed from the status page.

HF 664: http://https//

Crowded Capitol. Although the committee process was quiet today, a number of citizen-lobbying groups had their "day on the hill." Bikers (as in motorcycle riders) were there in their leathers. The Farmers' Union was in attendance. Students from the private college system were there. County library interests were also out in force.

When all of these groups are there at once, it makes me think "Are they all working on the same bill?" I'm trying to think of a bill that the four mentioned groups could agree upon. I suppose the bikers would agree to wear helmets only in people using the library had to use them as well. If teaching ag classes at the private colleges was proposed, that's something that the Farmers' Union could get behind. I'm not sure if bikers would agree to use ethanol in their "hogs," but the Farmers' Union would probably like to sell their corn for fuel as opposed to using it to feed their hogs. It can be a fun exercise, but I worry that one of the wild-eyed possibilities that rolls through my mind might actually by a real bill. Truth, after all, is stranger than fiction.

Trivia Answer. Yes, 1960's musiphiliacs. "Turn Down Day" was the second hit from the folkie band Cyrkle. Their first hit, of course, was "Red Rubber Ball," written by Paul Simon (of Simon and Garfunkel, not the former US Senator from Illinois).

Here are the lyrics to "Turn Down Day." Try not to hum it for the rest of the day, but it's an extremely addicting little ditty.

Turn Down Day:
It's much too groovy a summer's day
To waste running round in the city.
But here on the sand I can dream away
Or look at the girls if they're pretty.
It's a turn-down day
Nothin' on my mind.
It's a turn-down day
And I dig it.
There's nothing easier I can do
Than lying around doing nothing.
Repeat Chorus
Soft summer breeze and the surf rolls in
To laughter of small children playing.
Someone's radio has the news tuned in
But nobody cares what he's sayin'.
Repeat Chorus
Things that are waiting to mess my mind
Will just have to wait til tomorrow.
Repeat Chorus

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