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Federal probe of Los Angeles district's iPad initiative ends with no charges

Feb. 22, 2017
Federal prosecutors conducted a long investigation into the district's $1.6 billion plan to provide an iPad for every student.

Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles have decided not to file charges after a FBI investigation into the Los Angeles Unified School District bidding process that awarded Apple a contract to provide iPads for every student, teacher and administrator.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the U.S. Attorney's Office has ended its probe of the $1.3 billion iPad project, which called for the purchase of 650,000 iPad devices. No charges will be brought.

The school district's ambitious iPad initiative turned into a debacle after a rocky rollout, followed by revelations about costs and the bidding process. The program's troubles were a key factor leading to the resignation of Superintendent John Deasy in October 2014.

Especially under scrutiny by investigators were personal ties and communications that Deasy and other district administrators had with executives from Apple and Pearson, the company that provided the curriculum installed on the iPads.

The school board approved the project in June 2013. Deasy left the room while the board deliberated because he owned 15 shares of Apple stock. But later it was revealed that Deasy had worked closely with Apple and Pearson and had little or no contact with competing vendors. He’d also filmed a promotional video for the iPad in December 2011, before he announced the iPad-in-schools plan.

The first public problems emerged with the fall 2013 rollout at a first group of 47 schools. High school students immediately discovered that they could circumvent security software and surf the Internet, go on social media and look at adult sites.

Another critical issue was that teachers hadn’t been properly trained. The program’s first formal internal evaluation found that in 245 classrooms, only one teacher was using the online curriculum.

In light of the problems, a school board member, Monica Ratliff, reviewed the project and concluded that the initial rules for winning the contract appeared to be tailored to Apple and Pearson rather than to district needs.

Deasy’s successor, Ramon C. Cortines, called the iPad program unaffordable and canceled it part way through. Today, district students have access to a variety of computers, though many are shared. They include more than 124,423 iPads.

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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