Public schools

LA School Officials Admit iPad Plan Was Unaffordable and Distracting

When you're spending other people's money...

|


Laptop
Ilona75 / Dreamstime

It's once again time to check-in with the Los Angeles Unified School District, a bureaucratic behemoth working diligently to prove that when you're spending other people's money, you'll never come in under budget.

Ramon Cortines, the new superintendent, recently admitted that the district's billion-dollar idea to buy every single student an iPad, Chromebook, or laptop was never affordable or practical in any sense—and in fact clashed with more urgent priorities, like procuring suitable textbooks and rebuilding infrastructure. From The Los Angeles Times:

Cortines said, the L.A. Unified School District will try to provide computers to students when they are needed for instruction and testing.

"I don't believe we can afford a device for every student," Cortines said. "Education shouldn't become the gimmick of the year."

For former Supt. John Deasy, who resigned under pressure in October, the ambitious iPad plan was a signature initiative. It generated national attention and fueled debate about how best to get the latest technology to students in less affluent areas. …

From the start, the funding source was school construction bonds — a strategy that survived legal review but which has been widely criticized.

Cortines touched on that issue in a statement: "There must be a balanced approach to spending bond dollars to buy technology when there are so many brick and mortar and other critical facility needs that must be met."

Are professional education bureaucrats capable of closing their minds to expensive, impractical fantasies and sticking to the actual needs of students? Cortines seems to be doing a better job than Deasy, but it's easy to imagine another Big Idea coming along and capturing his imagination. Lack of adequate funding hardly seems to be much of barrier.