LAUSD Mulls Options To Fund iPad Project After 3 Years

Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) plans to improve learning by providing iPads to every student and teacher. The nation's second-largest school district launched a $1-billion project to distribute iPads to its 640,000 students by late 2014, but the rollout has been fraught with complications with security and funding.

The district's plan is to fund the iPad project with a one-time school construction bond paid back over about 25 years. The iPads have a guaranteed life of three years, and the project could prove difficult to financially sustain after that time, writes Howard Blume of Los Angeles Times.

The district is mulling other funding options for the iPads project. During a Board of Education meeting a description of funding options emerged, and officials for the first time discussed how they will continue paying for the program after three years.

Chief Strategy Officer Matt Hill has presented four options to pay for the program after three years. The first was to use funds left over from construction projects to pay for more devices, but the district already doesn't have enough bond money to fix up and maintain its schools.

Hill said bonds will cover only about 25% of maintenance and repair over the next few years. The second and third options require voters to pass new local or statewide bonds to pay for the program.

"A technology bond is really good thinking," said Scott Folsom, a member of the district's bond oversight committee. "But you continually hear from parents, voters and taxpayers that they're so upset over the iPads that they're never going to vote for another bond again."

The final option, according to Hill, is to set aside $100 per child each year from the general fund, starting in the 2016-17 school year, to gather as much as $252 million needed by fall 2018. Hill estimates that the tablets price will drop in future to $200 to $400 apiece.

Currently, the LAUSD pays $768 per iPad to Apple. The higher than retail price includes a limited three-year warranty, a protective case and other features. The bundle of extras is worth at least $200 more than the district paid for each device, according to Hill.

Hill's team also attempted a reckoning of other ongoing costs, such as higher electricity bills, a larger technical staff, computer network maintenance, security costs and software licenses. Those expenses will soon surpass $50 million annually.

In addition, the district has to buy digital curriculum. The iPads now include math and English course materials, and the licenses expire in three years.

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