The board the governs the three state universities voted today to close the Malcolm Price Lab School at the University of Northern Iowa at the recommendation of the school’s president as a cost-savings measure in light of budget cuts.
The Board of Regents held a special meeting via telephone, and Regent Bob Downer of Iowa City asked that they get an opinion from the Attorney General on whether they had the authority to close the school.
“Rather than looking at the possibility of having to back up in the event that such an opinion would be contrary to such an action that the board had taken,” Downer said. Downer’s motion to seek the legal opinion did not get a second.
All board members voted in favor of closing the school on June 30th with Downer abstaining. The school has been used for 50 years to train teachers and study teaching methods. Regent David Miles of West Des Moines, said he voted to close the school because U.N.I. President Ben Allen said it would allow the university to move ahead with a better way of training teachers.
“I know there are lots of folks (who) disagree with this recommendation, but no one should doubt Ben’s motives, or suggest that he has come to these recommendations with anything other than his most earnest consideration of what’s best for U.N.I., our students and the people of Iowa,” Miles said.
Regents president Craig Lang of Brooklyn, said he was not worried about the board’s authority to close the school. “Our general counsel has told us he believes that we have the authority, and I’m going by that,” Lang said. Lang had read a statement acknowledging the controversial nature of the closing before opening discussion of the issue.
“We have read your e-mails, listened to your phone calls, and watched in the news and social media, your many efforts in response to President Allen’s announcement last week. Your outpouring of strength and concern is of great testament to the university,” Lang said. See Lang’s full remarks here: Lang Lab School PDF
Lang was asked after the meeting why the regents felt it was necessary to move ahead right away with the closing. He replied that it was an important timing issue. President Allen also addressed the question, and said the timing of his recommendation was based on having alternative places for the K-through-12 students at the school to go. “The timing of my recommendation was around that particular deadline,” Allen said.
Allen said he decided to ask that the school be closed at the end of this school year instead of phasing it out because students might have left and made it difficult to keep the school running. “This was a difficult decision, I tried to be as deliberate as possible, careful as possible,” Allen said. “And the timing of this you could argue is not the optimal, and I would a agree with that, but the timing is such, given the decision that I had to make, it was about the only time I could make it,” Allen said
Allen said the lab school program costs about $3.5-million, and the cost of the new training program could be about the same. He said the savings will come in not having to renovate the Price Lab buildings — renovations that a consultant said could cost some $30-million.
The regents asked Allen to make a report to them at their April meeting on the progress for putting together a new plan for training teachers in place of the lab school.
Listen to the regents meeting here: connect.extension.iastate.edu/p8b68hg0rby/