L.A. Unified school district halts contract for iPads

The LA Times:

L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy suspended future use of a contract with Apple on Monday that was to provide iPads to all students in the nation’s second-largest school system amid mounting scrutiny of the $1-billion-plus effort.

The suspension comes days after disclosures that the superintendent and his top deputy had especially close ties to executives of Apple, maker of the iPad, and Pearson, the company that is providing the curriculum on the devices. And an internal report that examined the technology effort showed major problems with the process and the implementation.

Here’s how this unfolded.

Last week, a draft report of a district technology committee, obtained by The Times, was strongly critical of the bidding process.

Among the findings was that the initial rules for winning the contract appeared to be tailored to the products of the eventual winners — Apple and Pearson — rather than to demonstrated district needs. The report found that key changes to the bidding rules were made after most of the competition had been eliminated under the original specifications.

In addition, the report said that past comments or associations with vendors, including Deasy, created an appearance of conflict even if no ethics rules were violated.

Here’s a link to the memo from the LA Unified school district superintendent, Dr. John Deasy, to the various members of the Board of Education. From the memo:

This Informative is to advise the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education of our decision to implement a new Request for Proposals (RFP) solicitation for personal computing devices before bringing future phases of the Common Core Technology Project (CCTP) for consideration for approval. Moving forward, we will no longer utilize our current contract with Apple Inc.

Not only will this decision to take advantage of an ever-changing marketplace and technology advances, it will also give us time to take into account concerns raised surrounding the CCTP and receive new information from the California Department of Education regarding assessments. We will incorporate the lessons learned from the original procurement process, including the first two phases and the laptop pilot. Specifically, we will be revisiting the criteria on which original specifications were based, as well as review vendor responses and student feedback to the laptop pilot. We expect our current contractor and their subcontractor to participate in the upcoming RFP.

That last sentence is key. This is a re-do of the procurement to avoid the appearance of impropriety, not a slap at Apple, or so it seems to me.

  • Odd. Putting aside Apple for the moment, Pearson has the K12 market so tightly sewn up that writing an RFP that doesn’t favour them will be very difficult.

  • There’s an unfortunate connection between the top two people and Apple. Which doesn’t preclude the iPad as the best choice. But some seem to be bending over to prove that the iPad is not the best choice.

    My employer is going through the same processes. New people are trying to force the iPad out of the picture and bring in non-Apple products wherever possible. (Thank goodness we just spend $60,000 on Mac Pros! I would retire rather than us a PC at this point.) There’s a Surface Pro 3 moving around the department as they test it to see if it can replace iPads in our classrooms.

    For the CAD classes, it might theoretically do it, but really? CAD on those underpowered, overpriced, clunky devices? If I was a CAD student I would object and demand a real PC laptop. (Just like they demanded one design professor be taken out of a class, and he was removed.)

    The fun part is that now the PC advocates are working on fixing a “few minor issues” with the Surface 3. (In other words, it’s not working as we promised, and we’re trying to figure out how to prove it really can replace iPads.)

    Lord, retirement can’t come too soon. I am so sick of the IT people making bad choices that we end up paying for with our sanity.

  • lucascott

    I agree that this isn’t about Apple at all. They did nothing wrong other than win the bid based on their ability to fulfill the specs. If the specs were written so that they would be the almost certain winner that isn’t their fault. Unless someone finds a smoking gun that says otherwise. But right now they don’t even have an email from Steve Jobs suggested that Apple was ringleader to this stunt to make sure they won the bid.