L.A. school district may seek millions in refunds for iPad curriculum

Nearly two years after equipping 47 schools with iPads, the Los Angeles Unified School District is thinking of pursuing refunds from Apple and Pearson.
Written by Kevin Tofel, Contributor

The Los Angeles Unified School District made history when it equipped every student in 47 schools with an iPad and educational software in the fall of 2013. Nearly two years later, however, the district's initial plans haven't worked out. And now it is considering pressing Apple for refunds in the $1.3 billion program according to the LA Times.

It's an interesting challenge because Apple only provided the tablet hardware. The company subcontracted the software curriculum to education-based Pearson. The district hasn't yet requested a direct refund but the board has held a closed-door meeting to consider it. And David Holmquist, general counsel for the district, told Apple in letter that the school system "will not accept or compensate Apple for new deliveries of [Pearson] curriculum."

It's worth noting that the overall funding of the program isn't solely for iPads with the Pearson curriculum. Instead, the tablets and software were part of an overall $1.3 billion budget package which also included additional Internet access in schools.

However, the iPad and Pearson software components add up quickly. Each iPad cost the district $768 and the school system procured 43,261 of the tablets with Pearson's curriculum. It also bought 77,175 iPads without Pearson's software.

The situation puts Apple in a challenging spot, mainly because of the Pearson relationship. Apple's iPad hardware doesn't seem to be the central area of disappointment; instead, the district is pointing to Pearson's software, with an LAUSD project manager saying it requires "extraordinary, unsustainable, and un-scalable resources."

One other potential factor not mentioned in the LA Times piece has me curious.

California adopted the Common Core education standards in 2010, with implementation aimed in 2013. One of the reasons some school districts have chosen Google Chromebooks or low-cost Microsoft Windows laptops over tablets may be due to keyboarding requirements in the Common Core standards. Unless I'm mistaken about the keyboard part -- needed for some standardized tests, for one thing -- why did the LAUSD even go down this path to begin with?

Either way, it continues to look like a very costly mistake.

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