iPads at the LAUSD

Everyone agrees that students in Los Angeles need to have easy access to computers. In the case of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), this means that the schools must ensure that rich and poor students alikehave what has become a basic tool for learning.

For that reason, the LAUSD program to provide students with iPads was an excellent idea that unfortunately had a disastrous outcome. Hence, the wise decision by School SuperintendentJohn Deasy to suspend the program with just 47 schools having received the iPads and having spent only a fraction of the more than $1 billion estimated as the program’s overall cost.

Problems arose from the start. It is debatable whether a tablet like the iPad was more appropriate in terms of technology and pricethan, for example, a laptop. Questions are also being raised as to whether Apple was even ready to meet the large-scale deployment requirements when the program was launched.

These technological doubts led to questions about the bidding process, which, upon release of the details, leaves an appearance of improprieties in the system’s selection.

The implementation was no better, demonstrating a level of improvisation—perhaps due to inadequate technology—that could not avoid manipulation of the tablets’ security applications. To make matters worse, an internal audit showed that $2 million worth of computers distributed in the schools remains unaccounted for.

We do not believe that this fiasco is a pretext to call for Deasy’s resignation. We do think that the superintendent should launch a transparent investigation of what happened and provide a clear explanation. Many lessons can be learned from this project, the most important of which is not to repeat it.