(Reuters) - Los Angeles schools chief Ramon Cortines on Friday signaled he is ready to abandon a troubled plan to provide a computer to every student in the second-largest U.S. public school district, a reversal of a policy championed by his predecessor.
Cortines said the district could not afford the program, which aimed to provide iPads and computers to the district’s 640,000 students, along with teachers and many administrators.
“We are committed to providing technology to our children -whether it be desktop computer labs, laptops or tablets - to help prepare them for the 21st century,” Cortines said. “However, as we are reviewing our lessons learned, there must be a balanced approach to spending bond dollars to buy technology when there are so many brick and mortar and other critical facility needs that must be met.”
Cortines made his remarks amid tense labor negotiations between the Los Angeles Unified School District and its teachers union, United Teachers of Los Angeles. Earlier this week, both sides said they were deadlocked in negotiations over raises, class size and other issues.
For the third time in a long career, Cortines took the helm of the massive school district in the fall, after the resignation of John Deasy, a supporter of the computer and iPad program.
The district’s purchase of about 109,000 iPads in the program’s first phase drew criticism after students bypassed security systems to surf the Web freely. The bidding process also came under fire and is being investigated by the FBI.
Last year, an oversight committee that reviews the district’s use of bond proceeds rejected the plan, saying the school district had not proved that it was needed.
In a statement emailed to reporters on Friday, Cortines said the district “does not have sufficient funds to purchase and maintain technology” under the program.
Cortines will urge the Board of Education to hold off purchasing any more of the equipment for the foreseeable future, a spokesman said.
Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Mohammad Zargham