LAUSD Backs Out of iPad Deal with Apple, Pearson

The Los Angeles United School District (LAUSD) has announced that it will no longer hold a contract with Apple and Pearson which would have given an iPad to every student.

Superintendent John Deasy made school board members aware of the change to the Common Core Technology Project in a memo last week.

“Not only will this decision enable us to take advantage of an ever-changing marketplace and technology advances, it will also give us time to take into account concerns raised surrounding the [Common Core Technology Project] and receive new information from the California Department of Education regarding assessments,” Deasy wrote.

An investigation by KPCC revealed the district had been in communication with the companies concerning price, teacher training, and technical support prior to the bidding process.  The specifics mentioned in emails between the two companies were resembled in the district’s request for vendor proposals, allowing Pearson and Apple to win the contract in June 2013.

“Specifically, we will be re-visiting the criteria on which original specifications were based, as well as review vendor responses and student feedback to the laptop pilot,” Deasy wrote. “We expect our current contractor and their subcontractor to participate in the upcoming [request for proposal] RFP.”

The district currently is holding 75,000 iPads, almost half of which have already been loaded with curriculum from Pearson, although the company is not required to finish the software until November.  It is unclear what will happen to these devices.

The investigation uncovered emails from Pearson officials discussing financing for the software purchase, as well as suggesting that obtaining proposals from competing companies was unnecessary.

“I don’t know why there would have to be an RFP,” Pearson sales rep Judy Codding wrote in one email to LA Unified’s then-head of instruction, Jamie Aquino. “I cannot imagine anyone else able to do this as cheaply with all the PD [professional development] and all the materials for 25 courses for the price we discussed.”

The technology project, which would give 650,000 students computers and update the Wifi networks in 800 schools and cost upwards of $1.3 billion, will possibly be the largest expansion of its kind in the country.

The district used money from school construction bonds to pay for the project.  According to a school board committee that reviewed the purchase, it is unclear as to whether this money should have been used for that purpose.

“I believe the majority of the board is supportive of the concept, but not the contract,” school board member Steve Zimmer told KPCC after Deasy’s announcement.

Deasy insists the emails found by KPCC are in relation to a small pilot program, not the full purchase.  However, emails from Deputy Superintendent Jaime Aquino were later found concerning the training of 2,000 teachers on Pearson software, more than would be necessary for a small-scale pilot program.

Aquino has since left the school district.

The teacher’s union issued this statement last week:

“The superintendent does not get to just say, ‘never mind’ after all the problems the iPad rollout caused this district,” said the missive, emailed by United Teachers Los Angeles spokeswoman Suzanne Spurgeon. “Students, parents, and educators have a right to know what happened.  UTLA will be at the school board meeting on Tuesday demanding some answers.”