No app for that: Expensive new wrinkle in LA schools’ iPad fiasco

Robby Soave Reporter
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Los Angeles public schools officials were forced to admit this week that their iPad program would end up costing even more money than previously believed — and Common Core’s infamous textbook company Pearson is partly to blame.

Outgoing superintendent John Deasy has long wanted to supply every student in the district with an iPad device — at the cost of $1 billion to taxpayers. Trouble set in quickly as schools began implementing the plan, however. The devices are expensive, and many low-income parents worried that they would be on the hook for damages. Teachers also had to enable the security settings so that the devices couldn’t be used at home, though some students were able to circumvent those barriers. Dozens of iPads have already been lost, broken or stolen. (RELATED: LA schools give every kid an iPad—what could go wrong?)

But little could prepare iPad skeptics for the latest revelation: LA schools must pay an extra $60 million each year starting three years from now in order to re-license the English and math curriculum software on the devices. This contradicts earlier statements made by district officials that the software would not need to be rented multiple times.

The new information leaked out during a recent school board meeting.

“We’ll need to purchase licenses after three years if we want to continue to use the content,” said Hugh Tucker, deputy director of facilities contracts, according to The Los Angeles Times.

This drew the ire of school board member Monica Ratliff.

“OK, stop right there,” said Ratliff. “At the end of three years, that content is going to disappear or we’re going to be violating something by attempting to use this content?”

Tucker told her that this was indeed true.

Ratliff had asked the same question at previous meetings. On those occasions, she was told that the curriculum would only need to be “refreshed” every three years, not re-licensed.

The content is owned by Pearson, a London-based textbook and curriculum company. Under Common Core, the U.S.’s new national education guidelines, Pearson is heavily involved in the development and distribution of instructional and testing materials in schools nationwide. The company has been criticized for manufacturing textbooks that are incomprehensible and filled with errors. (RELATED: Common Core textbooks arrive late, filled with errors)

The continuation of LA’s iPad plan is now in serious jeopardy. A spending committee recently scaled back implementation of the devices by reducing the pool of available money for the project, according to The LA Times.

Contrary to Deasy’s thinking, enough officials may finally agree with parents that the district’s problems can’t be solved by throwing iPads at them.

The district did not respond to a request for comment.

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