L.A. Schools Want Millions Refunded for iPads and Education Software

Thursday, April 16, 2015
iPad with virtual keyboard (photo: Reuters)

An “extremely dissatisfied” Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) says it is canceling further orders of expensive curriculum software from Pearson Education and is seeking millions of dollars back from Apple for the $1.3-billion “iPads for all” debacle.

KPCC reported Wednesday that LAUSD attorney David Holmquist wrote in a letter to the computer manufacturer, “While Apple and Pearson promised a state-of-the-art technological solution for ITI implementation, they have yet to deliver it. . . . As we approach the end of the school year, the vast majority of students are still unable to access the Pearson curriculum on iPads.”

The district “will not accept or compensate Apple for new deliveries of [Pearson Education] curriculum.” The district wants a meeting next week to talk it over.  

Questions have been raised about the propriety of the deal. Former Superintendent John Deasy, who championed the project, and other top district staff members had questionable ties to the companies involved. The FBI started an investigation and raided school district headquarters in December.

New district Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines proclaimed the iPad purchase “Gimmick of the Year.”

There were problems right from the start.

Questions were raised about the legality of using school construction bond funds for the project. The limited rollout was a mess. Virtual keyboards proved impractical, so $38 million in real keyboards was put on the tab. Kids hacked their way past security barriers to use banned social media—and access websites they legitimately needed for homework. The district belatedly struggled to create a policy for handling lost or broken iPads.

The district has taken a different tack from the impetuous, expensive leap it took in mid-2013 to equip all 640,000 students with iPads and software to facilitate teaching the hotly-contested new Common Core standards. It still wants technology in the classrooms, but there will be a lot more references to sources cited in the Mother Jones article, “Kids Who Have to Share iPads Learn Better Than Kids Who Have Their Own.”

Last week, LAUSD’s Instructional Technology Initiative Task Force gathered for the first time to begin plotting a three-year course of action “to guide instructional technology integration throughout the District.” They will take a year to draft their recommendations.

Superintendent Cortines told them, “We have spent more than $100 million dollars on this project and it is now time to regroup and develop a solid plan that allows us to move forward.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, the school district has ordered math books.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

LAUSD Ditching Pearson iPad Program Software, Demanding Multimillion Dollar Refund (by Annie Gilbertson, KPCC)

Los Angeles School District Demands Multi-Million Dollar Refund from Apple (by Megan Geuss, Ars Technica)

L.A. School District Ditches iPad Curriculum, Seeks Refund from Apple (by Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times)

L.A. Schools Chief Derides $1.3-Billion “Gimmick of the Year” iPads for All (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

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