LA Unified School Board Election May Hinge on iPad Debacle


While charter school backers and teachers unions are on opposite sides of the upcoming school board elections in Los Angeles, both sides consider the district’s iPad debacle as the key to winning.

One charter school group believes incumbent Bennett Kayser should be held accountable for the failed program rollout, and has spent almost $2 million so far in its efforts to unseat him.  Meanwhile, the teachers union argues that incumbent Tamar Galatzan should leave due to her role in the program and has spent upwards of $1 million so far in the hopes of offering support to Kayser.

“The issue hurts us all,” said school board President Richard Vladovic, who also is running for reelection. “We were all in favor of it for different reasons and to a different extent.”

The winner of the election will play a large role in the selection of the new superintendent for LA Unified.  In addition, the party will serve a six-year term instead of the typical 4-year term, due to local elections being merged with state and national balloting.  The board will also be expected to approve a new teacher evaluation system and the management of charter schools in the area, writes Howard Blume for The LA Times.

While these issues are important to the district, the failed iPad rollout is receiving more attention.  The effort started as a way to offer every student, teacher and campus administrator in the district an iPad, which in the end would have cost around $1.3 billion in taxpayer-approved construction and modernization bond funds.  However, a number of start-up problems, issues with planning and questions concerning the bidding process have caused a federal investigation of the program.

Kayser maintains that he had continuously been a critic of former superintendent John Deasy, who had resigned last October under pressure from the failed rollout.  He added that he only approved of the iPad project in the hopes of getting the new technology into the hands of students in the district so that they could participate in the new online state tests.

Meanwhile, Galatzan said she had been wrong to trust Deasy and that she had been merely following staff recommendations to purchase the iPads.  She also believes it is wrong to label the project as a total failure.

“These are not toys sitting in a closet,” she said. “Someone should come out to my schools to see how they’re using them.”