A $1.3 billion contract that would have provided an Apple iPad to each of the 640,000 students in the Los Angeles Unified School District has been cancelled after questions and concerns surfaced about the bidding process that led to the June 2013 contract.
In addition to the contract’s cancellation, a federal grand jury has subpoenaed documents from the school district as legal inquiries continue into the process that led to the deal, according to a Dec. 2 report in the Los Angeles Times. So far, the FBI has seized more than 20 boxes of documents from the school district in connection with the probe, the Times reported.
“The subpoena asked for documents related to the bidding process as well as to the winning bidders in the $1.3 billion effort to provide a computer to every student, teacher and campus administrator,” according to the report. The contract called for Apple to supply iPads, along with curriculum from a subcontractor, educational book vendor Pearson. “The investigation is a broad one, seeking records related to Apple and Pearson that predate the bidding process or that involve other projects, according to the subpoena.”
The Times reported that former L.A. schools Superintendent John Deasy’s “role in the iPad project drew attention after disclosures of close ties he had with executives at Apple and Pearson,” according to the story. “Deasy, who resigned under pressure in October, has denied any wrongdoing, and board members also have said they don’t believe he was guilty of any illegal actions.”
After the FBI seized the school district documents, schools Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines decided to “shelve” the contract, the Times reported. “We’re not going to use the original iPad contract anymore,” Cortines said. “I think there have been too many innuendos, rumors, etc., and based on my reading of a great deal of material over Thanksgiving, I came to this conclusion. As CEO and steward of a billion-dollar operation, I have to make sure things are done properly so they are not questioned.”
In August, Deasy had “announced a suspension of purchases under the contract with Apple after the disclosures of his contacts, as well as those of his top deputy, with Apple and Pearson executives,” according to the Times. “He said at the time that the suspension was related to changes in the technology marketplace and not to the disclosures.”
That earlier suspension, however, didn’t materialize, and “as recently as Monday, the L.A. Unified [School District] was still planning on spending millions of dollars under the contract with Apple,” the newspaper reported.
The investigation into the iPad contract in the school district has been going on for some time.
The project began with high hopes and plenty of headlines due to its large $1.3 billion price tag and its promise to outfit each of the district’s 640,000 students with one of the devices to assist in their learning and education.
The first phase of the project began in 2013 when 31,000 students in the district’s 1,124 K-12 schools were slated to receive their iPads. The rest of the district’s students were to have received their devices by the end of the 2014 school year. The idea was that students would no longer have to share a limited number of devices available in the schools, which would help them use technology as often as needed for their work. The program was also envisioned as a way to give students experience with technology to help them get jobs and further their education.
The district had received some 12 proposals from vendors when it was originally deciding on the contract, according to reports.