Guest post by Understanding Equity, a Los Angeles resident and teacher.
Even Costco most likely could provide a break down of the cost of every ingredient needed to make one of their famous apple pies. But, when it comes to LAUSD’s Apple iPad purchase, no one seems or admits to have any idea how the deal was sliced up.
What we do know is the total cost of the iPad which included software from Pearson, Inc.
What we don’t know is how much of the total cost was for the hardware and how much for the software.
To make matters worse, prior to the purchase, the yet-to-be developed software could not be reviewed by district officials, parents, or teachers. Presently, LAUSD is being told to take Apple’s word for it that the Pearson curriculum will be as promised and will be complete by the time of the final rollout.
Let’s take a look at how it’s done in another school district, San Diego Unified, which was referred to during the following exchange at the LAUSD Budget LAUSD Budget. Facilities and Audit Committee on Tuesday, October 22, 2013. (See approximately
02:10:45 in the following clip.)
MR—Monica Ratliff, LAUSD Board member
JB—Jean Buckley, Tamalpais Advisor
MR: So, real quick, I was just wondering if you might know if any other districts have used bond funds to pay for curriculum.
JB: You mean for in classroom teaching?
MR: Well, so what we’re doing here is we’ve got our curriculum on the devices and so I’m just wondering if you know of any other schools that have used bond funding to pay for curriculum?
JB: Specifically, I don’t know all the numbers, but I believe San Diego Unified and their iPad project included at least software. I don’t know whether, you know, all the educational content that they have for it, but I believe they’re one example. And there are many, many, many districts statewide looking at doing this you know. This is the wave of the future. And they’re all trying to figure out what could be bondable and what isn’t. So, I think you’ll see more examples. But right now, there aren’t too many.
As it turns out, San Diego Unified also used bond funds to purchase their iPads. However, there are several major differences. First of all, Apple included a $30 discount on each of their 26,000 iPads. LAUSD, on the other hand, will not receive their discount until approximately 500,000 are delivered.
Second, SDU purchased their software separately, not as a hidden cost embedded in the total. Last, and most important, the iPads were paid for by Proposition S, a bond that included $500 million specifically for technology.
LAUSD claims that it did its due diligence and researched other school districts that have rolled out one-to-one programs. Since San Diego is the second largest school district in California and close in proximity, it would seem obvious that SDUSD’s rollout could have provided a wealth of information for LAUSD officials.
Who did LAUSD consult with? That information has not been revealed. It seems that officials either failed to consult with anyone, or simply ignored best practices that have been instituted by other districts. With a billion dollars at stake, you have to wonder what was behind the decision to go headlong into such a massive project with such an incredible lack of forethought.
At present, there is much speculation as to what motivated Superintendent John Deasy. Was it the Apple iPad commercial he participated in? Was it the project leader Jaime Aquino’s former employment by Pearson? Was it Superintendent Deasy’s desire to gain national attention for putting iPads in the hands of every child in LAUSD?
What we do know is that the plan is full of holes — holes so large that there that there seems to be no practical way to complete this project as originally conceived in a district of this size and demographics.
To date, no one knows the future costs to LAUSD’s general fund to replace iPads in 3-5 years, the cost of updated software and the costs of professional development including a whole cadre of technical support staff.
There are, as expected, those who support Deasy’s agenda for school reform, but closer examination yields connections to corporate entities and philanthropic foundations that stand to gain financially and politically from increasing the use of technology and standardized testing.
In Los Angeles, the public has spoken out clearly in the recent school board elections and has rejected the corporate reform agenda. In the next few weeks, as the situation unfolds, we will witness a major battle. How this plays out may indeed reveal the direction and future of public education in Los Angeles and perhaps in the country.