Tablets in education: former L.A. schools superintendent says using bonds to buy iPads illegal
More school districts are bringing tablets to the classroom. It is a good goal to bring technology into schools, the question many school districts are facing is how to pay for it, and how to implement it.
On the vendor side of things, selling tablets to schools is often big business. Amplify, which sells cheap Android tablets to school districts, is still trying to make good on its sale to Guilford schools following incidents of melting chargers and cracked tablets.
On the school administration side, bring tablets to classroom is often seen as a major achievement for the district. The question is how to do it: all at once for every classroom, and incrementally.
In Los Angeles, schools Superintendent John Deasy is pushing on with efforts to introduce iPads to 38 more school campuses, part of a $1 billion tech initiative. In January, the school board approved moving forward with the program after an initial trial at 47 schools. But the use of iPads, versus cheap tablets, has been controversial due to both the cost of the devices – the school district is paying $768 per iPad – and where the money to fund the effort is coming from – school construction bonds.
William J. Johnston, the former L.A. schools superintendent, yesterday said that funding a tablet effort through school bonds was illegal, according to the L.A. Times. His objection is not about tablets, per se, but about what the bonds are meant to fund – long term construction.
“iPads are known to last for approximatey three years,” Johnston wrote to the committee overseeing the program. “New developments and technology will make them obsolete, requiring replacements. School bonds are designed to buy property, build schools, equip schools with lasting equipment. School bonds are paid for over a 25-year period.”
Johnson has a valid point. But when considering such a massive program there may not be another source of funding large enough to cover a school district the size of the Los Angeles Unified School District. LAUSD is the second largest school district in the nation, with over 650,000 students, and over 30,000 teachers, and 1,124 schools to administer.
When public schools are in such massive disrepair it is hard to argue with those that say funds should go to fixing drinking fountains and repairing classrooms. But adding iPads to the classroom directly effects the teaching situation. The question remains for many districts whether to allow themselves to be sold by vendors offering cheap goods, or whether they will develop their own programs, fully educated themselves in the device choices and the pricing, so they can make intelligent decisions that can be presented and defended to the public – and parents, in particular.