Public schools

L.A. Schools Wasted Millions on a Failed iPad Initiative. Now They Want Their Money Back.

Not a lot of "learning" happening here.



We've reached the inevitable next stage of the $1.3 billion Los Angeles iPad debacle: furious district administrators don't want any more of the accursed devices—they just want a refund.

The L.A. Unified School District has directed its attorneys to consider legal action against the two companies—Apple and Pearson—contracted to provide iPads and accompanying curriculum for every student in the district. The mind-bogglingly expensive program proved to be a total catastrophe; no one knew what to do about lost or stolen iPads, and teachers struggled to implement the unreliable curriculum.

At this point, district officials just want to get their money back, according to The Los Angeles Time:

L.A. schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines "made the decision that he wanted to put them on notice, Pearson in particular, that he's dissatisfied with their product," said David Holmquist, general counsel for the nation's second-largest school system. He said millions of dollars could be at stake.

In a letter sent Monday to Apple, Holmquist wrote that it "will not accept or compensate Apple for new deliveries of [Pearson] curriculum." Nor does the district want to pay for further services related to the Pearson product.

Many L.A. taxpayers probably hope the lawsuit is successful—it was their money, after all, and Pearson is a thoroughly unsympathetic crony-capitalist enterprise. But perhaps it will be less costly for taxpayers in the long run if the district learns a hard lesson about wasting millions of dollars on pie-in-the-sky fantasies.

NEXT: Take Me Out to the Ballgame, Pat Me Down With the Crowd!

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  1. Yeah, electronic learning ain’t all its cracked up to be. Internet resources are something I couldn’t live without, but electronic textbooks are a pain in the ass. Especially when you consider that they are still ridiculously marked up.

    1. My 2 year old learned her alphabet (can recognize every letter upper and lowercase and tell you what sound they make) when she was just 18 months old all through a $10 app. I’m currently trying to teach her how to read through the use of various apps. It’s pretty damn effective from my experience.

      1. Right, but that’s a lot different than handing ipads over to a school full of kids.

        1. Oh absolutely. Government bureaucrats (especially those in education) could fuck up a wet dream.

  2. The correct response to wasting a billion dollars is obviously to waste more money on a futile lawsuit. That’s government for you.

    1. Billion. With a B. Spent trying to update pedagogy that worked for millennia on clay tablets, vellum, and paper. But conservatives and libertarians are crazy for wanting to institute accountability among pedagogues and administrators. They burned through over a billion dollars failing to improve anything, but we’re the crazy ones in all of this.


        1. I hate children in the same way I hate Lexus or Rolex: they all seem like extravagances and I can’t believe anyone spends that much money on any one thing.

    2. Hey, it’s not their money. What do they care?


    1. You forgot ‘max’ after ‘those’.

    2. Stupid robot/electronics unions.

  4. “The L.A. Unified School District has directed its attorneys to consider legal action against the two companies?Apple and Pearson” …. Nor does the district want to pay for further services”…

    Best. Customer. Ever.

    I recall doing business with a government agency once and a boss told me to “charge 5 times as much…try and get rid of them”. I was shocked. I thought he wanted to rip off taxpayers. He shook his head and said, “‘you don’t want to work with them. they’ll never pay, then they’ll sue *you* when they fuck up your perfectly good work.” While there was no eventual lawsuit, we did scuttle the deal after 6 weeks of wasted conference calls. “Good Faith” does not translate to bureaucratese.

    1. Yeah, my first thought was “of course the fuckers want to sue, even though they made the decision; they’re government bureaucrats, and that means nothing is ever their responsibility or their bill to pay”. My consulting company worked with the NYC DOT one time and I was on the project. Oh my fucking god that was a nightmare. We managed to get paid, but guess what? They fucked up the product design so much they of course never ended up using the software. But the taxpayers paid for it nonetheless. They tried to get out of it, but our lawyers managed to get them to pay somehow.

  5. It’s good to be the king.

  6. Our county did this with some of the high schools. It was and is a disaster.

  7. When the education bubble bursts for higher ed, I hope the resulting shitstorm helps to knock K-12 into some semblance of reality as well. All of the insanely massive overhead and bureaucracy is TOTALLY UNNECESSARY FOR EDUCATION.

    1. Why do you hate the assistant to the assistant vice-principal Pro L?

      1. My kids’ high school has this amazing, state-of-the-art, auditorium? Why? How many millions did that cost? All this high-end shit, administrators up the wazoo, and education positively sucks these days.

        1. Why is the government in the education business at all? Mind you, I use the term business very loosely here.

          Here’s a solution to our public education issues. Take the money that’s currently spent per student and award contracts to private companies to educate each student to an agreed upon standard, at that price. Sell the schools and the land they inhabit and put the proceeds into a trust which reduces tax burdens on property owners and provides a reserve funding cushion. Leave these schools free to hire and pay effective teachers as they see fit. Reward schools/companies that excel at meeting education, graduation and college entrance standards. Penalize the ones who don’t or cancel their contracts. Allow a free market solution to parents who want their kids to go to a successful school. If a school can entice their clients to pay more for better service, fine.

          I know this is a simplistic plan that omits some critical details, but I don’t see why it couldn’t be made to work.

          1. Or, more simply, just give the money that the state would use to fund a kid’s eduction in a public school to the parents and let the parents spend the money as they see fit.

            I mean, it would beeven better if we just did away with the government middle man and just let the parents keep their tax money in the first place, but my state has a constitutional requirement that a system of public education be funded. I bet most states have something similar. But, instead of creating schools and forcing kids into them, we could just give the money to parents and let them spend it wherever they see fit. Instant competition and accountability. And, if there’s money left over, let the parents keep it — Price competition, to boot!

    2. K-12?? WTF? 7-12 are a bubble, too.

  8. the technology effort was a civil rights imperative designed to provide low-income students with devices available to their wealthier peers

    Oh, of course it was. Better technology will bridge that gap. Not better teachers, greater accountability, nor anything approaching choice. You know, things students from wealthy families already enjoy.

  9. OT =

    Jews tell Millenials = “The Holocaust Is Not All About You

    the article is behind a paywall. I didn’t get past “selfies with survivors”. Also, the picture on the right of the girl @ Auschwitz… oh, mercy.

    But I like the kvetching, “Oy! kids these days…. don’t even know how to be miserable”

  10. Did Apple not comply with the contract? Or did the government simply make a stupid contract? If the latter, that’s hardly Apple’s fault.

    1. “that’s hardly Apple’s fault.”

      You think this matters to lawyers who bill the city of L.A.?

  11. Ima just leave this here:

    Fairfax County police say one of their officers has been arrested for child pornography.

    Officer William “Bud” Walker was arrested Wednesday afternoon at police headquarters and charged with two counts of child pornography possession.…..ornography

    The punchline:

    Prior to that, he worked in a patrol capacity and also held a position as a school resource officer at South County High School in Lorton from 2006 to 2009.

    1. But of course he did, RC. What is the new rule (call it whatever you wish)?

      If you create a position of power or potential exploitation, the worst possible people to occupy that position will gravitate to it, until eventually it is occupied by the last people in the world you would want in it.

      1. It’s not just power. It’s power acquirable primarily through bullshit, lack of ethics/morals, and thuggery.

    2. The only people who go into the education industry are kiddie diddlers.

  12. Twenty five years ago I was teaching kids on an Apple II.

    1. And wearing an onion tied to your belt, as was the style at the time.

    2. I seem to recall studying modern physics where the professor drew on a blackboard with chalk.

      1. “the professor drew on a blackboard with chalk.”

        There is clearly something racist going on there.

        1. Not to mention the *air pollution*!

          1. Well, and good grief… a chalkboard? (I’ll use the politically correct term.) How… unenlightened. No entertainment value, how could you possibly keep students’ attention? I bet they didn’t even use multicolored chalk! (Insert eyeroll.)

          2. Especially when students were punished by being made to bang the erasers!

            1. Our teacher, Mr. Sawyer, convinced us it was a reward to be able to bang the erasers.

              1. You never banged out a “Fuck you!!!” on eraser duty?

                Not a Libertarian! :o)

    3. So you admit to child sexual abuse?

  13. it’s an interesting concept, clawing back money for lack of performance. have government employees thought this through?

  14. on a smaller level my sons HS started with laptops and flash drives his freshmen year…appeares to work well in a smaller suburb…only downside I guess…the wifes mad that the kids dont write in cursive lol hahaha I said they dont use sand script either lol haha

    saved a fortune on books and paper pens pencils printers…..implemented correctly it can work and save money….they are GPS but no cameras mics etc low end models for school work only, to slow to play games just fast enough to run word lol haha even then its molassass up hill in the winter fast

  15. if the district learns a hard lesson

    Now that’s hilarious.

  16. I just checked the # of children all grades in the LA Unified School District. 655,000.

    So, they’re saying they spent $2000 per student to get an iPad and some software!

    A person could go to China and buy every kid a pad for $100 and it would be a good one. Then, you purchase outright the software you need for $10 mill. A massive sum and a contract which a lot of companies would kill to get. $20 million tops. It is school work. There are thousands of texts available which cover everything one needs to know practically for free.

    And, did anyone think to try it in one or two schools first? Or, even one or two classes first?

    And, will anyone be fired?

    1. You mean government workers in CA? Fired? LOL

  17. Lost & stolen Ipads. Gee, whoda thunk.

  18. The voters in the LAUSD got some politicians elected to their school boards who were incompetent enough to fall for this boondoggle, and now those voters should demand a recall of the bogus product they “bought” with their votes. Simple. The products are out there for anyone to examine, use, evaluate…. NOW is not the time to be “discovering” they are “unsatusfactory”. Apple made no unfounded claims for their devices. I guess Pearson are a publishing company developed the aplications to run on the devices. I wonder who’s brother in law involved with the school system works for Pearson? The voters are the ones getting hornswoggled.. will they be smart enough to demand their “votes” back and recall these idiots? Doubtful……

  19. “…perhaps it will be less costly for taxpayers in the long run if the district learns a hard lesson about wasting millions of dollars on pie-in-the-sky fantasies.”

    You can’t seriously think that an unaccountable government entity is going to learn a hard lesson about other peoples money, can you? They’ll easily get over this and raise their budgets to cover the next government cluster-fuck.

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