Price Laboratory investigation impacts parents and school - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Price Laboratory investigation impacts parents and school

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CEDAR FALLS (KWWL) -- Tuesday morning, aggravated misdemeanor charges were filed against nine local parents for tampering with records. The State Attorney General says they listed false addresses on school records to qualify for lower tuition at Malcolm Price Laboratory School in Cedar Falls.

This has had major repercussions, both for the school and for the parents accused in the investigation. Malcolm Price Laboratory has made major changes to its record keeping and accountability systems. And whether or not he is found guilty, this has impacted the reputation of one high-profile parent. A few hours after he was formally charged, State Representative Kerry Burt officially ended his campaign for re-election.

Malcolm Price Laboratory school has been part of University of Northern Iowa, in one form or another, for about one hundred years. The past two or three have forced school leaders to re-evaluate the enrollment process.

"new systems were put in place, so we feel that parents have a much better feel for - this is where I live, this is what I pay. It's much more understandable, much more straight-forward than it was in the past," said UNI Public Relations Assistant Vice President James O'Connor.

But state investigators believe the problem at Price Lab was more than a misunderstanding.

"The Attorney General's office was looking into allegations that some people had "tuitioned in", and paid a rate that wasn't appropriate," said O'Connor.

Open enrollment regulations led to the development of "tuition in" enrollment. Families who live outside school boundaries, and who do not qualify for open enrollment, can pay a higher fee to send their kids to Price Laboratory.

"Students living in the zone in 2007-2008 were charged $526. Those who are outside the zone and tuitioned in, the fee was $5,333," explained O'Connor.

Following a year-long investigation, the State of Iowa is charging nine people with tampering with records to avoid paying the higher fee. That list includes Burt. According to court documents, Burt admitted to using a false address to obtain residential status for his kids. Burt also said, everyone at the school knew where he really lives, and he never tried to conceal the truth.

He claims, he is innocent, and his name will be vindicated. He and the other parents charged in this investigation are scheduled to appear in Black Hawk County Court on April 22nd. Burt said he's looking forward to setting the record straight in court.

UNI representatives say the investigation has not changed daily class operations, but it has lead to an overhaul of their registration procedures. Parents now need to provide two forms of proof of residence. They also need to sign an "address attest" letter, swearing their kids legitimately live at the listed address, and promising to inform the school if anything changes.

Online Reporter Colleen O'Shaughnessy

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