Thursday, September 30, 1999

UH lab school
asks parents to dig
a bit deeper

Contributions of $4,000
are sought to meet next year's
budget needs

By Mary Adamski


Parents of University Laboratory School students are being asked if they could contribute $4,000 next school year as a way to assume the operating budget burden from the University of Hawaii.

"I don't want anybody's heart fluttering, this school will not close," Principal Loretta Krause told about 75 parents of sixth- and eighth-graders last night.

The proposal being floated at briefings through next Tuesday is an attempt to insulate the school from a budgetary blitz which has seen state support for the the University of Hawaii reduced by $40 million in the past five years.

"We are looking for a solution that would bring the school to self-sufficiency," said UH Senior Vice President Alan Teramura. He said a $4,000 "contribution" for each of the 360 students would meet the school's $1,125,000 budget. The university would continue to provide groundskeeping and maintenance services.

The student body of the kindergarten through 12th grade lab school acts as testing ground for UH curriculum research and development and teacher training. It is top-ranked among the nation's laboratory schools, said Krause, past president of the national association of university laboratory schools. Programs developed there are used in other local schools and around the country.

The students are chosen from different socioeconomic backgrounds, from the spectrum of intelligence levels and representing different ethnic groups to present "a microcosm of schools in Hawaii," Krause said. It's a public school, so no tuition is charged, but parents are already asked to make "activity contributions" between $1,000 and $2,000 per year.

Domie Molina, father of an eighth-grader, said he now gives $1,250 which is about half what he pays for another son's tuition at St. Theresa Catholic School.

"If the $4,000 is including books, art supplies and project materials, it's reasonable to me," Molina said. "It's still less than a private school."

Al Clark, father of a sixth-grader, also sounded sympathetic. "The government is pushing them into a way they didn't want to be. It's different from what we expected when he came here ... but my son loves school here."

Krause indicated that officials don't expect that lower-income parents will be able to make the full contribution. "We have always had some who have supported us with more money and some with a little less. People who are more affluent have already helped other children take trips." Other fund-raising will attempt to make up the difference, such as tapping alumni support, she said.

A prospect, if the contribution method doesn't work would be to seek authority to charge tuition, which would require action by the Legislature and the Board of Regents. Krause said laboratory schools have decreased from about 200 in the nation to 100 -- most closed because of fiscal hard times -- and many are now tuition based.

One mother questioned whether the school's value as research ground would be skewed if it started admitting only people who can afford to pay the tuition.

Arthur King, director of the UH Curriculum Research and Development Group, acknowledged that was a valid assessment. "We are proud of the breadth of our people here. We want to have that continue, to keep low-income students."

King compared the proposal with annual tuition of $8,000-$10,000 per year at Hawaii's top private schools. "That reflects what it costs ... we're absorbing the difference."

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