Chalk this up as perhaps the biggest
mulligan in recent edtech history. The infamous $1 billion iPad deal between Los Angeles Unified School District, Apple and Pearson will be scrapped as the district will re-do the bidding process, marking yet another twist in a series of unfortunate--and embarrassing--events.
Howard Blume, the dogged
Los Angeles Times reporter who broke the story that the iPad program has been "cancelled," said LA Unified superintendent, John Deasy, called him shortly afterward:
The late night drama comes in the wake of a series of emails and an
unofficial internal report obtained by the Los Angeles Times, which found that Deasy and his chief deputy "developed a special relationship" with Apple and Pearson "at least two years before the contract was approved", thus calling into question the fairness of the bidding process.
At the center of the controversy are emails between Deasy, Jaime Aquino (his former chief deputy), Marjorie Scardino (former Pearson CEO), and John Couch (Apple's VP of education), some of which suggest that L.A. officials gave tips to Pearson executives on how to make its bid more competitive. (Other bidders included
Amplify and MIND Research Institute.) No criminal charges were filed by the LA County district attorney's office, which had earlier reviewed the allegations. Still, the conflict of interest is startlingly evident.
It's unclear whether the iPads and software that have already been issued will be returned or refunded, if the next bid is awarded to other vendors. Prior to this dramatic decision, the district appeared to be
looking at alternatives by setting aside $40 million for schools to purchase non-Apple devices.
UPDATE (8/26/14): In a memo to the Board of Education, Deasy writes: "Under the authority of the current contract, we will have deployed devices to 52 schools districtwide." (LA Unified, the second largest district in the U.S., has over 1,100 schools.) The district issued iPads to 31,000 students and 1,500 teachers at 47 different schools in August 2013 as part of Phase one of its Common Core Technology Project. In February 2014, it approved a Phase two plan to roll out an additional 39,000 iPads in 35 new schools.
What is clear from another district memo is that phases one and two will continue as planned. Phase three, which has not begun, will involve an open RFP to include vendors other than Apple.