In the wake of its collapsed iPad program, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is seeking millions of dollars in refunds from Apple. The district's board of education has authorized state and city attorneys to investigate litigation to claim money from Apple and Pearson after the district itself broke the contract. Also sent letters by the LAUSD are Lenovo and a computer distributor, both also including Pearson materials.
David Holmquist, general counsel for the LAUSD sent a letter to Apple on Monday claiming that it "will not accept or compensate Apple for new deliveries of curriculum." Pearson was part of the Apple contract, and provided English language and mathematical educational materials for the iPads. "As you are aware, LAUSD is extremely dissatisfied with the work of Pearson," said Holmquist in the refund demand. "While Apple and Pearson promised a state-of-the-art technological solution ... they have yet to deliver it."
Superintendent Ramon Cortines declared that the district no longer has the funding to continue the effort. Confusingly saying that "education shouldn't become the gimmick of the year" when asked about the program, the school leader said
that the district would attempt to provide computers when required for instruction and testing.
LAUSD entered into a contract with Apple in 2013
for the iPads and Pearson for the curriculum, as part a $1.3 billion initiative to supply devices to its staff, administrators and approximately 650,000 enrolled students. The schools covered included all grades from kindergarten through high school, and targeted students who otherwise would not have access to the technology. The bulk of the total cost was a fixed $678 per iPad, which came pre-loaded with Pearson e-textbooks and other educational apps. Each iPad came with a three-year warranty.
The program ran into its first issue in October 2013, when students at trial schools were forced to return the devices after the school discovered students had circumvented blocking measures to visit unauthorized websites. During the same month, reports surfaced that LAUSD went vastly over budget on the first installment of devices, as pricing was estimated based on a price break that wouldn't kick in until $400 million was spent with Apple itself. More than half the money was spent on educational materials from Pearson.
In June 2014, the district said it was shelving the iPad plan
to consider laptops, tablets and Chromebooks from other manufacturers instead of opting to negotiate new terms with Apple. School board members criticized the iPad-focused approach, even though the exact same board had unanimously approved the project in 2013.
The program came under fire after it was discovered ex- Superintendent John Deasy had met with Apple and educational material supplier Pearson a year before the technology program went out for bid. Deasy made an effort to wind down the project in September, only to tender his resignation under pressure in October.
In December 2014, the FBI commenced an investigation into the program, seizing 20 boxes of documents relating to the program. The school district is conducting its own review of the program, through Los Angeles Schools Inspector General Ken Bramlett. Cortines decided to put an end to the iPad program outright in order to re-bid the technology initiative for the 2015-2016 school year, with support from the bond oversight committee and Board of Education.
All told, the district contracted for 43,261 iPads with the Pearson materials, and 77,175 without. It is unknown specifically how many devices the LAUSD has in hand, and how much has been paid to Apple and Pearson.
While we aren't privy to specific figures or the contracted amounts, MacNN
has been told from a source inside the district that even though the LAUSD is seeking a refund for educational materials, the price paid per iPad actually delivered with educational materials compared to what has been paid to Apple to date is still below what Apple charged at retail for an equivalent amount of iPad 2 and 3 units at the time of release, even including the additional cost for Pearson's curriculum. The accuracy of the source's claim is unknown, and should we get more concrete figures on this, we will update this story with further information.