LAUSD gets a surprise early visit from FBI over flawed iPad procurement program

Things seem to have gone from bad to worse for administrators at LA Unified School District over a $70-million iPad program, as the FBI executed a subpoena to seize about 20 bankers boxes of documents this week.

Previously, I wrote about the LAUSD’s decision to end their iPad program amidst allegations of an improper bidding process. According to the story I referenced from the LA Times, it sounded as if district officials had fallen victim to Apple’s notorious reality distortion field.

Knock, Knock…

According to AP reporter Christine Armario, the district’s general counsel was expecting agents later this week and was surprised when they arrived on Monday instead. The subpoena indicates that documents requested were related to the iPad program, and specifically documentation of the proposal process.

While it remained unclear exactly what aspect of the iPad project—one of the biggest technological undertakings by an urban district in the U.S.—the FBI was investigating, legal experts and education observers immediately focused on Deasy’s relationship with Apple and Pearson and the use of construction bond proceeds to spend money on a short-term device purchase.

Ariel Neuman, a former federal prosecutor, said the government is likely investigating possible fraud involving the contracts.

“If someone doesn’t disclose a relationship they have with Apple,” he said, “those could be material omissions that could lead to a wire or mail fraud case.”

Enter Google…

While ultra-cheap netbooks running under-supported and malware-prone outdated copies of Windows are still an option, Google’s series of cloud-based Chromebooks are gaining a major foothold in schools. Via Chance Miller of 9to5google.com:

According to the latest data from IDC, Google, for the first time ever, has overtaken Apple in United States schools. The research firm claims that Google shipped 715,000 Chromebooks to schools in the third quarter, while Apple shipped 702,000 iPads to schools. Chromebooks as a whole now account for a quarter of the educational market (via FT).

IDC says that the lower cost of Chromebooks when compared to iPads is a huge factor for school districts. Chromebooks start at $199, while last year’s iPad Air, with educational discounts applied, costs $379. The research firm also says that many school corporations prefer the full keyboard found on Chromebooks instead of the touchscreen found on iPads. Some schools that use iPads, however, supply students with a keyboard case as well, but that only further increases the cost of iPads compared to Chromebooks. IT departments also tend to favor Chromebooks because they are simpler to manage when compared to iPads.

What’s Next?

It will be interesting to see how this ends up. For now, LAUSD ended its existing contract with Apple in favor of a different one. In addition, the district has a separate contract in place to purchase Chromebooks from another vendor.


References:

IPad_bag

Image courtesy Wikimedia

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