A new report has found that the iPad for every child effort by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) was ineffectively planned.
The report showed that the district limited its purchase of the new technology by price and product, making some wonder how fairly the effort was run.
The review did find major issues with the effort, including that the contract was tailored for Apple and Pearson, which the district eventually did strike a deal with, without discussing why they were needs for the district.
For example, the contract states that the devices must have at least a "10-inch multi-touch display." It does not state why this is a necessary feature for the district's learning goals.
"There is a danger that an appearance may be created that such specification was included for an improper anti-competitive purpose," the report says.
While the study did not suggest anyone in particular to be at fault, senior officials of the school district, including Superintendent John Deasy, were discovered to have a close relationship with Apple and Pearson executives prior to the contract between the two for a $1 billion effort to give iPads to every student in the district, loaded with curriculum by Pearson.
Deasy had recused himself from the bidding process, as he owns Apple stock which he has since sold. He did, however, appear in a promotional video where he seems to make a clear preference for Apple products.
"We had decided to adopt iPad technology, as we were trying to provide ways for increasing student engagements," Deasy said in the spot.
Also under scrutiny was Jaime Aquino, head of instruction at LAUSD, who previously had been an executive at a Pearson affiliate until 2011. While ethics rules within the district stated that Aquino could not be involved in the Pearson contract for one year, by the beginning of 2013 he was on the committee that oversaw the bidding process.
An inspection by the Los Angeles County district attorney unearthed no criminal wrongdoing during the bidding process.
The study also discovered that the bidding rules were drastically changed in key areas, only after many of the competitors had been eliminated.
The iPads were rolled out last year to see a series of setbacks. Students could easily maneuver through security filters to browse the Internet and download apps which did not pertain to school activities. Officials then prohibited the use of the technology off school grounds.
The $768 a-piece iPads and curriculum were all paid for with voter-approved school construction bonds.
Despite the scrutiny of the program, Deasy said he believes that giving every student access to the technology is imperative for success in the 21st century.
"For those who have been critics and those who have been sarcastic, you wouldn't need to see the supreme irony that all of your criticism comes to me via iPads and iPhones," Deasy said. "I look forward to the 900,000 new digital citizens that will be joining the rank of having their voice heard in the 21st century."
As a result of the program review, 27 high schools within the district will receive 19,300 laptops rather than iPads for students and staff.