What do you get when an embattled school district decides to spend $1 billion on iPads, aiming to put the devices in the hands of every student?
iPads in classrooms are inevitable, if you ask us, and public school kids shouldn't be left out of the technological revolution. But the teachers here have a point.
Voters approved several billion dollars worth of school construction, improvement and repair bonds via measures Y, R and Q in the last decade. The district is using at least some of that money to fund the iPad program, estimated to cost $500 million for the devices and $500 million to give every campus wi-fi access - even though some of L.A. Unified School District's facilities are a mess.
Matthew Kogan, a teacher at Evans Community Adult School in Chinatown and the adult education committee chair at the teacher's union, recently created a Facebook page called Repairs Not iPads.
Its photos of campuses in disrepair, sent in by fellow teachers, are causing a stir. Kogan told us:
I know every teacher is upset about conditions at schools. Classrooms are very dilapidated. We're very upset that bonds for school buildings and repair are being routed to this iPad project. It seems they should get their priorities straight. You got a leaky roof? An iPad is not going to fix it.
The iPad program has had enough problems without teachers posting photos of schools in various states of disrepair.
Some kids hacked the devices so they could surf prohibited sites. The district scrambled to figure out who would be responsible if the $700-plus devices never came back to school. And software licensing for the iPads turned out to be a big and recurring expense.
A survey found that just about one-third of teachers supported the iPad roll-out.
Kogan thinks part of the reason is that there are so many other things - bathrooms with unusable toilets, broken desks, classrooms with no heat or air - that need to be addressed first:
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I don't think anyone assumed their vote for bond the measures meant the district could turn around and spend it on anything. All the older school have issues. They are in worse condition than the public knows.
The district sent us this statement:
We are still looking into the Facebook photos. Some of them do not identify the school or when the photo was taken. We did identify a few repair issues at Franklin High School and have assigned staff to resolve them.
As far as reassigning the budget, we believe these should not be competing interests: iPads vs. clean schools. We believe that every student deserves access to technology and that all schools should be clean and safe learning environments.