CEDAR FALLS, Iowa --- Those opposed to the closure of Malcolm Price Laboratory School and academic cuts at the University of Northern Iowa are still searching for answers.
Professor Adam Butler addressed 13 people Wednesday night at the Cedar Falls Public Library at a "teach-in" on the UNI budget situation. Butler said he can't see the financial logic behind the cuts proposed by UNI President Ben Allen and approved by the Iowa Board of Regents.
"It doesn't sound like they are actively cutting the budget. I mean, we can't know from what we've heard," Butler said.
Allen has said closing Price Lab would save $2 million, but estimates from cuts to academic programs have not been disclosed. Allen has stressed cuts are part of repositioning the university and will include investing in its strengths.
Butler is a professor of organizational psychology at UNI. He was invited to speak by Working Families Win, a group that advocates for a number of economic, union and education issues.
Butler said UNI professes goals of being a premier undergraduate institution and to be a regional leader in education, but the cuts undermine those goals.
Much of the discussion focused on the lab school, but Butler also talked about how UNI has hired more nontenure-track faculty and how the university spends millions of dollars annually on auxiliary activities like athletics.
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When it comes to Price Lab, Butler questioned the savings, saying the change in funding for the lab school in recent years was supposed to have state education funds pay for the K-12 student education, while the university would fund the research and development activities. Many lab schools that closed in other parts of the country depended on university funding.
"The schools that have closed have closed, mostly for financial reasons. They were responsible for paying the per-pupil education costs," Butler said.
Joe Gorton, a criminology professor at UNI, attended the meeting and said he supported the lab school.
"There's no reason to think we have to mimic what other universities do. There's nothing wrong with being something unique and special and doing something here that isn't done everywhere else," Gorton said.
Price Lab supporters have disputed claims by Allen from a consultant's study that showed the building would cost $30 million to renovate. They say the building could get updated for much less, and, aside from that, building renovations don't come out of UNI's general fund and don't address the budget issues UNI administration have cited in making the cuts.
"It's silly and absurd to claim the building at Price Lab is a big issue," Butler said.
Those who oppose the cuts are planning to protest at the Iowa Board of Regents meeting next week in Cedar Falls.