In response to a federal investigation into the awarding of contracts for a $1.3 billion program to purchase thousands of iPads for students, Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Ramon Cortines announced Tuesday he was halting plans to purchase the devices for 27 schools by February.
FBI agents on Monday seized 20 boxes of documents relating to LAUSD contracts with Apple and education publisher Pearson as part of the Common Core Technology Project — a signature effort of former Superintendent John Deasy to provide iPads or laptops to every student, teacher and administrator.
Cortines said the district "will offer its full cooperation to federal authorities during the course of the investigation.''
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In a surprise move, Cortines had announced earlier that he planned to move ahead with the purchase of iPads and laptops for students and staff at 27 schools by February. That announcement came despite Deasy's decision before his October resignation to put the iPad contracts on hold over questions about his interactions with Apple and Pearson before the bidding process.
But in light of the FBI probe and a report by the district's Inspector General, Cortines said Tuesday he planned to halt those purchases and "restart" the procurement process for the 27 schools, meaning the devices will not be acquired until the start of the 2015-16 school year.
He said the district still plans to move ahead with the immediate purchase of thousands of iPads and Chromebooks under a separate contract for use in standardized testing in the spring. The district's Bond Oversight Committee last month approved $13 million for that effort, in addition to more than $9 million that had been previously approved.
Those devices, however, will not be equipped with the education software included in the contract being reviewed by the FBI.
Deasy has denied any wrongdoing stemming from the iPad program, but the questions led to increased pressure on him to step aside, which he did in mid-October.
The rollout of the iPad program was beset by other problems, such as students who managed to work around security software so they could browse the Internet on the devices.
The president of United Teachers Los Angeles, the union representing LAUSD teachers, has long been critical of Deasy's handling of the iPad project, and said today he welcomes a "transparent and independent'' investigation.
"The former superintendent cannot escape the tough questions about the ill-fated iPad project," Alex Caputo-Pearl said. "He cannot simply resign and leave a mess for others to clean up. If this rises to the level of criminality, the former superintendent must be held accountable for his actions."