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LAUSD iPad Program Expansion Approved by School Board

By Barbara Jones 

An advisory panel overseeing Los Angeles Unified’s iPad project signed off on a $45 million request to expand the technology program to 45 more schools, but it rejected plans to spend $90 million on tablets for every principal and teacher in the district and for students who need to take online state tests next spring.

The Bond Oversight Committee debated three hours before voting 9-4 to recommend that the school board approve buying about 24,500 iPads for kids at 38 schools across LAUSD, plus laptops for students and teachers at seven yet-to-be determined high schools.

But the panel had serious questions about the rest of the plan, which was worked out by Superintendent John Deasy and the school board as they wrestled over how to proceed with the second phase of LAUSD’s $1 billion technology project.

Committee members complained that the district’s numbers were missing, fuzzy or just didn’t add up. They voiced concerns about the contract with Apple, the legality of using bond revenue to buy computers and whether the district is moving too quickly to get iPads into the hands of all 600,000 students.

“It is my hope that we will put the district on notice about the concerns,” said Stephen English, who chairs the committee that reviews plans for using construction bond revenue. “These concerns have to be addressed before we can go beyond Phase 2. We’re unanimous in that.”

District officials had hoped the order would include more than 28,000 additional iPads that would be given to every principal and teacher to help them get familiar with the devices and jump-start their lessons. But the committee called the purchase “premature,” noting that students at some schools won’t get iPads for two more years.

The committee also told officials to come back with the price tag for buying keyboards for 49,000 iPads that were distributed during the first phase of the technology project. The keyboards were included in the $135 million request, but members wanted a cost breakdown.

The panel also rejected a request for about 67,000 tablets and 2,000 tablet carts that would be distributed to about 900 schools so their students can take online standardized tests being given by the state next spring. English chastised district officials for coming to the committee with a sketchy plan and advised them to return with more details.

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