Los Angeles Unified School District committed to a massive effort to improve learning by buying iPads from Apple Inc. for every student and the teachers. However, the project is hanging by a thread as more hurdles appear — and this time it’s cost.
A new school district budget shows that providing iPads to Los Angeles students will cost nearly $100 more than anticipated per device for a total of $770 per tablet. This potential sticker shock can be avoided, but only after the Los Angeles Unified School District has spent at least $400 million for the devices in a mass order. The newly disclosed price, a 14% increase per iPad, appeared in a revised budget released in advance of a public meeting on the $1-billion project.
According to Howard Blume of Los Angeles Times, the goal is to provide iPads to every teacher and student, so officials remain optimistic about the discount even though start-up problems emerged immediately this fall. Security filters were deleted by more than 300 students allowing them to browse the internet freely and prompting officials to suspend use of iPads at three campuses. Mechanical keyboards that will be necessary to use the iPads on new standardized tests are yet to be purchased by officials, and parents have expressed confusion about their responsibility for the devices.
The earlier cost estimate for each iPad “preceded the actual procurement process,” the district said Monday in response to questions from The Times. “The negotiated discount of $678 does not go into effect until the district has reached the $400-million spending threshold.”
Stakes are raised by the deal’s structure in what L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy recently referred to as the district’s “pilot test”. The iPads become considerably more expensive if the district pulls out of the deal or buys fewer tablets from Apple Inc. The district began the rollout of the tablets with a $50-million budget that is supposed to outfit all students and teachers with iPads at 47 schools as well as cover training and upgrading wireless Internet costs on these campuses. That budget allotted $20.3 million for iPads based on an early estimate of $650 per device, and the revised budget adds more than $4 million for the tablets.
The district postponed some elements of the project, such as a system for providing online courses, to keep the overall budget at $50 million. It also shifted costs to the district’s general fund, which is used for basic operations. A school construction bond funds the iPad project, a strategy that has attracted some criticism.
The price per device, which is higher than retail, includes a protective case, a limited three-year warranty, technical assistance and training, and one Apple TV setup per 20 students. The cost also includes curriculum from Pearson Education Inc. that is still being developed.
Overall, “we are right where we want to be,” according to a written copy of the budget presentation.