L.A. school district wants multimillion-dollar refund for failed iPad program

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Apple's still leading, but the market for tablets is declining. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
Apple's still leading, but the market for tablets is declining. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

The Los Angeles Unified School District is demanding a multimillion-dollar refund from Apple following a failed iPad program that was set to give more than 640,000 students a tablet for education.

It is thought that the Board of Education is exploring the possibility of litigation against the Cupertino company as it seeks to claim back money that has already been lost on the scheme.

In a letter issued to Apple this week, David Holmquist, general counsel, said that LAUSD “will not accept or compensate Apple for new deliveries of [Pearson] curriculum,” or any further services provided by Pearson, the partner that was to provide education materials.

Holmquist added that L.A. schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines has “made the decision that he wanted to put them on notice, Pearson in particular, that he’s dissatisfied with their product.”

Announced in July 2013, the program was set up to improve education and provide children with new technology skills by giving each one an iPad. It was supposed to be a flagship scheme that would persuade other education institutions to follow suit.

LAUSD earmarked $500 million that would be paid to Apple for the iPads, plus another $800 million to upgrade schools’ wireless networking infrastructure to allow students to connect to pre-approved sites and content for learning.

But after LAUSD acquired 43,261 devices at a cost of $768 each — including a $200 license for curriculum software provided by Pearson — the program collapsed… and became very, very messy.

Much of the curriculum that was set to be provided by Pearson wasn’t available after several months of the program’s launch, and students quickly learned how to hack the iPads to access whatever they wanted online.

On top of that, many of the devices have gone missing.

Now the FBI is investigating to establish whether the program was somehow rigged. The SEC has also opened an informal inquiry into the case this week, LA Times reports.

Why? The price LAUSD paid for each iPad is significantly more than the cost of alternatives from Microsoft and Google. In addition, John Deasy, who was Superintendent when the program was signed off, was also an Apple shareholder.

The turnout will be a major blow to Apple, which has long positioned the iPad as an ideal tool for education.