updated 01:43 pm EDT, Wed June 19, 2013
Every student to have access to an iPad
Apple has won a $30 million contract to provide iPads to every student in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the LA Times reports. The Board of Education voted 6-0 in favor after hearing senior staff claim that the iPad was both the best and least expensive option for meeting the District's specifications. The tablet "received the highest scoring by the students and the teachers," according to Deputy Superintendent Jaime Aquino. The vote authorizes deployment at 47 campuses; since Apple is the only authorized vendor though, the District will end up paying hundreds of millions to Apple over the course of two years.
That issue in fact generated some controversy with Board members Steve Zimmer and Richard Vladovic. Vladovic expressed worries about the lack of detailed data on costs. To that Zimmer added that the deal is "one of the most high-profile contracts this board will ever approve," also asking whether or not devices other than tablets might not be better for high school students.
The District is paying $678 per iPad, higher than the tablet's normal retail cost, but in exchange will get preloaded educational apps. Three-year warranties will cover replacement iPads up to 5 percent of the value of the purchase.
Before yesterday's vote, Microsoft's senior director of state government affairs, Robyn Hines, asked the Board to pilot more than one product, and avoid depending on a single platform, which she claimed could cut the District off from future price drops and technological innovations. District staff countered by claiming that Apple had the superior product, and that students shouldn't have to use a lesser one. They added that students and teachers frequently change schools, and having to learn a different platform can be a burden.
Officials also opposed a vote delay supported by teachers' union president Warren Fletcher, who said that money would be better spent on rehiring needed workers. The vote went ahead after officials noted that funding is coming from facility bonds, which can't be used to hire staff, and that new state and national tests will require computers, for which iPads could provide students with necessary experience.
Other points of controversy arose over the fact that facility bonds are normally used for construction, and paid off over decades, and that Superintendent John Deasy appeared in an Apple promotional video prior to the start of bidding for the contract. Deasy abstained from involvement in the decision, but only because of his ownership of Apple stock. Board members Bennett Kayser and David Holmquist stayed out of the matter for the same reasons.
Apple has issued a statement confirming the deal, and saying that it marks just the beginning of a larger rollout in Los Angeles schools.