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Los Angeles Admits School iPad Plan Was $1.3 Billion ‘Gimmick’

The superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District has announced that the district is abandoning its much-ridiculed plan to supply a computer to every student, saying it is too expensive and describing the original vision as a “gimmick.”

“I don’t believe we can afford a device for every student,” superintendent Ramon Cortines said last Friday night, according to the Los Angeles Times. “Education shouldn’t become the gimmick of the year.”

Cortines also said that the plan was half-baked from the start, as the district never developed a fully-realized plan for how to use the devices in class, or pay for replacements over the long haul.

Going forward, he said, the district will instead follow a conservative plan of maintaining fewer computers and doling them out when needed for particular lessons or tests.

The remarks signal a total repudiation of the signature policy of Cortines’s predecessor, John Deasy, who drew national attention through a plan to supply an Apple iPad to every single student in the district. Deasy touted the effort as a civil rights initiative that would help close the gap in technology skills between poor and wealthy children.

The plan was criticized from the start, especially for its $1.3 billion price tag, and a trial roll-out in 47 schools quickly devolved into a humiliating failure. Security filters designed to keep students on-task were easily disabled, while dozens were quickly stolen. Teachers admitted that they weren’t entirely sure how to incorporate the expensive devices into lesson plans. The obstacles caused the rollout to be put on hiatus, and later the district announced that it was looking into using computers other than iPads.

Later, questions emerged over the procurement process, as Deasy and a top staffer were found to have a close relationship with Apple and Pearson, raising the possibility that the two were illegally favored when contracts were awarded. The scandal contributed to Deasy’s resignation last October. In December, the FBI raided LAUSD to seize documents as part of a criminal investigation.

Cortines’s announcement comes just days before a local school board election, where the failed iPad plan is a major issue, as incumbents are under fire for endorsing the plan.

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