In a major shift, Los Angeles Unified School Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines has announced that the district will be unable to provide computers for all of its students due to budgetary restraints.
Instead, the district will make a concerted effort to make computers available to students as needed during instruction and testing.
"I don't believe we can afford a device for every student," Cortines told the Los Angeles Times, "Education shouldn't become the gimmick of the year." Cortines added that LAUSD had never made a definitive plan for how teachers would have used the iPads during instruction, nor had it planned how it was going to pay for the tablets over time.
The initial plan to provide all 640,000 students in the district with iPads was an initiative thought of by former LAUSD superintendent John Deasy, who was pressured to resign in October after facing criticism over technology efforts in the district including the iPad program, writes Howard Blume for The LA Times.
The rollout of the program in 47 schools across the district saw a number of problems such as students finding their way around security settings in order to browse the Internet for non-educational purposes during class time. In addition, concerns were brought into question pertaining to a close professional relationship between Deasy and executives from Apple, the maker of the iPad, and Pearson, who would be supplying the curriculum on the devices.
Cortines put the program on hold after the FBI seized 20 boxes of documents from district during their criminal investigation.
Deasy continues to deny any wrongdoing and insists that the effort was a civil rights and educational imperative meant to bring technology to all students in the district.
Cortines went on to say that the district is currently facing a shortfall of $160 million going into the next school year. That deficit is preventing the district from offering teachers any more than a 5% raise.
According to United Teachers Los Angeles, which represents 31,000 teachers, educators in the district have not had a raise in eight years and currently earn salaries smaller than those of neighboring districts. The union declared an impasse last week in the contract negotiations that have been ongoing since July.
The union is asking for an 8.5% raise in addition to smaller class sizes, additional counselors and nurses, and a change to the teacher evaluation system.
A mediator is being called in to help resolve the issue, reports Annie Gilbertson for KPCC.
Cortines hopes the two sides can reach an agreement without any walkout.
"You talk about a budget deficit? It will exacerbate the budget deficit, because parents have other options," Cortines said. "They can go to other schools, private, parochial schools, they can go to charter schools, etc."