The Los Angeles Board of Education Tuesday approved the next phase of a $1-billion effort to provide computers to every student, teacher and administrator. The board agreed to distribute iPads to every student at 38 more schools, begin a bidding process to provide laptops for students at seven high schools and buy as many iPads as needed to complete new state tests in the spring.
In doing so, the board opted not to follow the advice of an oversight panel that had recommended purchasing thousands of fewer devices.
In the end, board members -- who said they wanted to avoid unnecessary spending -- approved a proposal that removed entirely a cap on how many iPads the district could buy for standardized testing scheduled for the spring. But they also insisted that they expected the number to be well below the 67,500 tablets the district staff had recommended.
The oversight committee, relying on a district analysis, had recommended purchasing about 38,500 for testing. The iPads used for testing would be shared by different classes during a six-week exam window.
The larger number was calculated when the upcoming state test was twice as long. It was never adjusted because district staff decided that a cushion would be helpful. Critics have accused officials of simply trying to buy as many iPads as they could, to institutionalize the iPad program beyond any retreat.
The measure, approved Tuesday by a 6-0 vote, also provides iPads to every student at an additional 38 campuses. In the fall, the program began at 47 schools. The district action also authorized testing out laptops for students at seven high schools.
The estimated cost of the board action is $115 million.
There also were other iPad developments. L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy announced that Apple had agreed to provide the latest tablets for the same price that the district had agreed to pay for an older discontinued model.
Officials are negotiating a lower price for thousands of iPads that will be used only for testing, a reduction of about $200 to $300 less per device.
The discount would lower the price per iPad from $768 each to a cost that is more in line with what some other school districts are paying. The iPads would not include curriculum developed by Pearson. Also not included in the testing package would be training from Apple and Pearson and an Apple TV box that is provided to every classroom under the full contract, said Mark Hovatter, head of facilities for the Los Angeles Unified School District.
The curriculum is being excluded because the license to use the curriculum only lasts three years. If the curriculum were included on the testing machines, the license would be activated even though the curriculum would not be used in the current academic year, said Scott Folsom, a member of an oversight committee that reviews school bond spending. These bonds are being used to pay for the vast majority of costs in the iPad effort.
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