Schools demand huge refund from Apple for educational iPads deemed unusable

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Back in 2013 when the Los Angeles Unified School District set forth on a plan to provide every student with an iPad, it seemed like an innovative and forward thinking approach to technology and education. Fast forward to today and it looks a lot more like a mess. The botched plan has left the LAUSD frustrated and looking for a refund from Apple, according to the L.A. Times.

The 2013 initiative was an ambitious and costly undertaking as it attempted to equip over 650,000 kids with a new iPad. The tablets, purchased from Apple, have software from Pearson, a large U.S. educational technology firm, installed on them.

Where things started to go downhill was upon implementation of the tablets and software in the schools. Technological issues arose and students were easily able to bypass the security firewall on the iPads, giving them unfettered access to the tablets instead of locking them into the educational ecosystem. Independent studies also suggest that the curriculum software was often incomplete.

The jumbled plan, which cost $1.3 billion dollars only to have it fail rather spectacularly, has led to the LAUSD’s Board of Education searching for ways to handle the situation. Currently, they are exploring the possibility of pursuing legal action against Apple and Pearson.

Pearson defends itself, Apple keeps quiet

The LAUSD’s general council David Holmquist sent a letter to Apple on Monday expressing the district’s frustration. “As you are aware, LAUSD is extremely dissatisfied with the work of Pearson,” he wrote. “While Apple and Pearson promised a state-of-the-art technological solution … they have yet to deliver it.”

A spokesman from Pearson defended its product to Reuters: “Pearson is proud of our long history working with LAUSD and our significant investment in this ground-breaking initiative. This was a large-scale implementation of new technologies and there have been challenges with the initial adoption, but we stand by the quality of our performance.” As for Apple, it’s staying quiet about the whole situation, perhaps because there isn’t much for it to say. The issues the school district had were primarily with the software.

The initiative, as forward thinking as it may have been at the time, has been plagued with troubles all along the way. In December 2014, the FBI raided the school district and left with 20 boxes of information pertaining to the program. The superintendent resigned following the raid, though claimed no wrongdoing took place.

Most recently, the Securities and Exchange Commission launched an investigation into how the bond funds for the huge project were being spent by the district. While the school district remains confident that it did not mishandle or misspend any of the money that was to be directed toward the program, one may wonder if the potential lawsuit against the world’s most profitable company may be an attempt to displace blame after a huge, costly initiative went belly up amidst ongoing suspension of wrongdoing.


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