A few legislators are expressing concerns about the decision to close the University of Northern Iowa’s lab school, but it’s unclear whether enough lawmakers can agree to pass a plan that would keep it open. Senator Bill Dotzler, a Democrat from Waterloo, says he’s disappointed the Board of Regents has acted so quickly to approve the closure plan.
“It almost seems political to me,” Dotzler says. “The Regents ususally operate in a very measured and deliberate manner and I’m confused about why they would want to hold a phone call vote over this important issue.”
UNI’s president is proposing a series of steps to deal with budget realities at the Cedar Falls school, including an end to some academic programs as well as closure of the university’s laboratory school where about 350 K-12 students are enrolled. Dotzler says he would have preferred giving the public time to weigh in on the closure and to have a vote on the matter at a regularly scheduled public meeting of the Board of Regents.
“It’s extremely important to how the University of Northern Iowa is viewed,” Dotzler says. “We are trying to be, up there in the university, the premiere education university in the United States and losing their (research and development) component at Price Lab, I think, would undermine the reputation of the university.”
But Representative Scott Raecker, a Republican from Urbandale who is chairman of the House Appropriations Commtitee, says it appears to him the board that governs UNI has the authority to make this decision.
“The legislature does not need to take any affirmative action to codify or support the Regents decision,” Raecker says. “The legislature could take action to keep it open.”
However, the top two Republicans in the legislature have all issued written statements of support for the closure. House Speaker Kraig Paulsen praised the decision as the kind of belt-tightening Iowans expect at the public universities, while Senate Republican Leader Jerry Behn called it the kind of decision that will lead to the long-term fiscal health of UNI.
A group of legislators from the Waterloo/Cedar Falls area issued a joint statement, as did Congressman Bruce Braley, a Democrat from Waterloo. You may read those statements below.
From Black Hawk County Legislators Rep. Bob Kressig, Rep. Deborah Berry, Rep. Anesa Kajtazovic, Sen. Jeff Danielson, and Sen. Bill Dotzler:
“We’re deeply disappointed in the Board of Regents’ decision today to close the Price Lab School. Their decision was made without any input from parents, students, teachers, or others in our community. This lack of transparency in an era of open government is alarming.
There’s no plan in place to help the students and families currently enrolled at Price Lab or provide the quality training for students at UNI who are training to be teachers.
With so many unanswered questions, there was no reason to rush this decision and close Price Lab. We’ve heard from hundreds of Iowans about the closing and they deserved to be heard before this decision was made.
We’re going to review every legislative option we have and work to keep the school open.”
Washington, DC – Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) released the following statement after the Iowa Board of Regents voted to close the Malcolm Price Laboratory School in Cedar Falls by June 30th:
“It’s a sad day when state funding cuts force a choice between keeping a university functional and keeping a special school like Price Lab open.
“At a time when politicians talk endlessly about education reform, closing a top-notch, nationally recognized school that actually walks the walk on educational innovation is the wrong thing to do.
“Iowa’s economic success depends on our ability to properly educate a new generation of teachers and innovators. There is no innovation without education. We should be investing in and improving education for our kids – not closing our best schools.”