April 16, 2015 / 7:55 AM / 4 years ago

Los Angeles schools seeking refund over botched iPad plan: LA Times

(Reuters) - The Los Angeles Unified School District is seeking a refund from Apple Inc (AAPL.O) over the district’s bungled $1.3 billion effort to supply students with iPads, the Los Angeles Times reported on Wednesday.

A man holds an iPad mini during the launch of the iPad mini and iPad with Retina display Wi-Fi models in Los Angeles, California, November 2, 2012 REUTERS/David McNew

The district’s initiative, launched in 2013, to equip each of its roughly 650,000 students with an iPad or another computer device with curriculum from Pearson Plc (PSON.L), was the largest educational technology project of its kind in the United States.

The project soon ran into difficulties, however, and the technology rollout encountered problems, including students bypassing a security firewall on the iPads, while an independent report found that the built-in curriculum was often incomplete.

The Los Angeles Times said the LAUSD’s Board of Education in a closed-door meeting on Tuesday authorized its attorneys to consider potential legal action against Apple and Pearson.

“As you are aware, LAUSD is extremely dissatisfied with the work of Pearson,” the district’s general counsel, David Holmquist, said in a letter to Apple on Monday, according to the Times. “While Apple and Pearson promised a state-of-the-art technological solution [...] they have yet to deliver it.”

Holmquist added that the district was severing ties with both companies for future services on the project, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The letter was first reported by local public radio station KPCC on Wednesday.

Reuters could not independently verify the Los Angeles Times’ report. Representatives for the district and Apple could not be immediately reached for comment on Wednesday night.

“Pearson is proud of our long history working with LAUSD and our significant investment in this ground-breaking initiative,” a Pearson spokesman said in an emailed statement. “This was a large-scale implementation of new technologies and there have been challenges with the initial adoption, but we stand by the quality of our performance.”

John Deasy, Superintendent at the nation’s second-largest school district before he resigned in October, described the project as a civil rights initiative to help the district’s mostly disadvantaged students. But he drew criticism over the process used to select Apple and Pearson.

The FBI is investigating the project, and agents in December seized 20 boxes of documents relating to the program’s purchasing process from the district’s headquarters.

Current LAUSD Superintendent, Ramon Cortines, said in February that the district could not afford the program, signaling that he was ready to abandon it.

Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Susan Fenton

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