Public schools

LA Schools' $1 Billion iPad Fiasco Ends After Corruption Revelations

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Technology
HLundgaard / Wikimedia Commons

Los Angeles Unified School District is ending its billion-dollar iPad program, which has drawn widespread criticism for distributing expensive devices to teachers who didn't know what to do with them and students who kept losing or breaking them.

The costly program was considered a total failure, and it's little surprise that district officials have finally relented and scaled back. More surprising, however, are revelations that District Superintendent John Deasy may have engaged in some crooked bargaining to arrange the deal in the first place.

According to The Los Angeles Times, Deasy's previous connections to Apple and Pearson—the companies contracted to supply the iPads and instructional materials for them, respectively—amount to a conflict of interest. In hindsight, the bidding process that Apple and Pearson won to score the contracts seems biased in those companies' favor, The LA Times notes:

Last week, a draft report of a district technology committee, obtained by The Times, was strongly critical of the bidding process.

Among the findings was that the initial rules for winning the contract appeared to be tailored to the products of the eventual winners — Apple and Pearson — rather than to demonstrated district needs. The report found that key changes to the bidding rules were made after most of the competition had been eliminated under the original specifications.

In addition, the report said that past comments or associations with vendors, including Deasy, created an appearance of conflict even if no ethics rules were violated.

Emails obtained by The LA Times show Jaime Aquino, Deasy's deputy superintendent, advising Pearson officials on how to win the bid.

I should note that this isn't the first time Pearson has been accused of something like this. Pearson, a British company, is the largest publisher of education materials in the world, and its efforts to lockdown contracts for Common Core-aligned testing material have drawn scrutiny.

Still, the iPad fiasco hasn't dampened the district's enthusiasm for forcing costly new technology on unprepared students and teachers. Select LA schools will be trying out other devices this fall (some of which are actually more expensive), and Deasy is fairly pleased with that:

"We will incorporate the lessons learned from the original procurement process," he said.

"We look forward to refining our processes and ultimately achieve our vision to equip every one of our students with a personal computing device to help them succeed in the 21st century."

I don't run a bunch of schools, but this sounds like the exact opposite of learning our lesson to me.

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  1. Don’t you mean ‘Less surprising…’?

    1. I mean, more surprising to the average reader. Nothing about school district corruption is surprising to a former education beat reporter, sure.

    2. The more surprising part is that they admitted failure. Usually they just double down on derp and squeal for more money.

  2. Corruption? In LA?

    Unfathomable!

  3. *Wastes $1 billion*
    *Shrugs it off*
    *Retains monopoly on education*

    Government in a nutshell.

  4. My son’s high school just sent out notice that each student will receive a Chromebook this year. He already has a Mac Pro and most of his peer have computers as well. Stupid waste of money.

    1. yep – how is this for an idea –

      EVERYONE – BUY YOUR OWN STUFF AND STOP EXPECTING “SOMEONE ELSE’ TO GET IT FOR YOU OR YOUR KID!!!

    2. My daughter’s elementary school bought a set of 30 chrome books to be used in the classroom.

      Since everyone can log into their own account in the cloud, it works very well.

      You can do homework at home, and then its there at school automatically.

      The funds for the chrome books came from our PTA.

      Using Chromebooks is also good because you could provide poor students with those at home through donations, etc. Not everyone can afford a $800 notebook.

      1. By provide at home, I mean a scholarship could pay for a Chromebook. Our school has scholarships for poor kids to pay for field trips. This would be similar.

  5. Just another day to reveal yet more corruption. Wonder what the tipping point is. When the overwhelming majority of people in government, business, academia, law, education, and religious institutions are criminals, corrupt, slimy, or plain scum, how much longer does the country stay afloat?

  6. Los Angeles Unified School District is ending its billion-dollar iPad program, which has drawn widespread criticism for distributing expensive devices to teachers who didn’t know what to do with them and students who kept losing or breaking them.

    This would have worked a lot better had they distributed iPads, then fired every teacher.

  7. “We look forward to refining our processes and ultimately achieve our vision to equip every one of our students with a personal computing device to help them succeed in the 21st century.”

    The best word I can use to describe this line of thinking is “Totemism”.

  8. We look forward to refining our processes

    If by “refining our processes” he means “hiding our cronyism and corruption better”, then I believe him.

  9. Didn’t the same thing happen 10 years ago in Atlanta’s suburban Cobb County with a big Apple laptop buying program (back when “iBook” was the consumer laptop brand, not a electronic book format). http://macdailynews.com/2005/0…..requested/

  10. ^This, very nice summation.

  11. “I should not that this isn’t the first Pearson has been accused of something like this”

    Didn’t you or your editor bother to proofread this article?
    Writing and perhaps editing is become so pathetic since the age of the Internet. Everyone thinks they are a writer without having any reason to

    1. “I should knot”

      There we go.

  12. It’s a bummer, but they can always try again with wearables! *sound of money being tossed into a wood chipper*

  13. From what I hear, chromebooks will become the norm used by schools. Because they cheaper than other options and (more importantly) they allow all homework to be updated (by teacher) and saved (by the student) in the cloud. Which would prevent the “my dog ate my ipad” excuse.

    Of course only LA would spend a billion dollars on something that should have been test ran for less that 100k.

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