iPad software licenses expire in three years, L.A. Unified says
Renewing licenses could cost $50 to $100 per iPad, about $60 million annually, despite earlier statements that the district would own the software permanently.
November 19, 2013, 10:05 p.m. :: Contradicting earlier claims, Los Angeles school district officials said Tuesday that their right to use English and math curriculum installed on district iPads expires after three years.
At market rates, buying a new license for the curriculum would cost $50 to $100 each year per iPad, an additional cost that could surpass $60 million annually. The expense would add to the price tag of the $1-billion effort to provide a tablet to every teacher and student in the nation's second-largest school system.
The iPad program had a delayed and troubled rollout. Early on, the district ordered them kept at schools after students bypassed security filters so they could freely browse the Internet. Another issue has been the release of conflicting, misleading or incomplete information. Such an issue arose Tuesday.
At previous meetings, district staff had asserted that the curriculum would belong permanently to the L.A. Unified School District. It would not be updated after three years but would last as long as the iPads themselves.
Including the curriculum, district officials had said, was one aspect of the contract that made the purchase — at $768 per device — a bargain.
But a different explanation emerged at an evening meeting of a district technology committee meeting chaired by school board member Monica Ratliff.
"We'll need to purchase licenses after three years if we want to continue to use the content," said Hugh Tucker, deputy director of facilities contracts.
"OK, stop right there," Ratliff interrupted. "At the end of three years, that content is going to disappear or we're going to be violating something by attempting to use this content?"
"I believe that to be correct," Tucker said.
Ratliff wanted to know why it was not like purchasing software, which you own and can use until it becomes outdated.
The better analogy was to satellite radio, which you never own and for which you pay a recurring fee, said Matt Hill, the district's chief strategy officer.
The committee then learned that the three-year clock started July 16, the date of the contract. So far, the curriculum, which is provided by Pearson, is supplemental and has not been supplied in its entirely.
District officials said Pearson is not late, and that this year was always intended as a transition period.
But L.A. Unified is nonetheless paying for a curriculum that it is phasing in. Under the current rollout schedule, thousands of students would not receive iPads until late 2015, about six months before the license expires.
As recently as Nov. 5, a staff presentation noted only that the Pearson curriculum would need to be "refreshed" after three years.
And Ratliff had asked directly about the curriculum during an Oct. 22 meeting.
"Is the curriculum being rented, and will the curriculum be deleted from the devices upon contract expiration?" she had asked. "I believe you answered at the previous meeting that we will be able to keep the curriculum on the device."
"Right," said chief information officer Ronald Chandler, according to a meeting transcript.
"And that it is not being rented," said Ratliff.
"It's not being rented. What we do need to clarify is updates to the curriculum," Chandler said.
The annual cost estimate for the curriculum — $25 to $50 per subject per year — is based on district figures, but also confirmed by vendors in the industry.
Another iPad meeting took place in the San Fernando Valley on Tuesday, where district staff explained and defended the project
But outside the Valley Academy of Arts and Sciences, about 15 teachers, parents and representatives from the teachers union rallied and sliced into an iPad-shaped cake while teachers and parents held aloft digits spelling out $1 billion.
A protester dressed as Marie Antoinette, and wearing a sash reading "Tamar Antoinette" urged onlookers to "let them eat iPads" in response to requests by protesters for more librarians, nurses and smaller class sizes.
The reference was to project supporter and board member Tamar Galatzan and was intended to question the district's priorities in spending so much for technology when campuses and students had other needs.
Victoria Casas, a teacher at Beachy Avenue Elementary School and a parent of two children in the district, said the program was unsustainable and that the district should steer money toward training and reducing class sizes.
"They quickly become obsolete," she said. "How can we sustain the budget for this — it's irresponsible."
(Most of the iPad funding is coming from school construction bonds that can't be spent on employee salaries or school supplies.)
But parent Heather Thompson defended the effort as being essential to providing what students need in terms of technology and academics.
"To have a device in the hands of every child has to be the standard," she said.
Teachers union members, parents protest $1-billion iPad plan
By Stephen Ceasar and Howard Blume, - latimes.com http://lat.ms/1bCU2YB
November 19, 2013, 7:30 p.m. :: More than a dozen Los Angeles teachers on Tuesday staged their first protest of a $1-billion plan to provide iPads to every student and teacher, calling the effort misguided and unsustainable.
About 15 teachers, parents and representatives from the teachers union rallied at the Valley Academy of Arts and Sciences in Granada Hills, just before a meeting held by Los Angeles Board of Education member Tamar Galatzan where L.A. Unified officials explained and defended the iPad rollout.
Bernadette Lucas, the iPad project director, spoke to a packed auditorium at the high school and said the first phase of the rollout was about learning the best processes for getting the devices to students and teachers.
“At the scale we're operating ... we had to be in a mode of learning,” she said.
The program is designed to support, not replace teacher instruction, she said.
“Nothing is more important than a teacher,” she said. “This isn’t about what’s on the iPad -- it’s about how that teacher uses the iPad to access creativity, innovation, thinking.”
The protest, organized by United Teachers Los Angeles, included protesters eating an iPad-shaped cake and 10 teachers and parents holding up the numerical digits of the $1-billion cost.
A protester dressed up as Marie Antoinette and wearing a sash that read “Tamar Antoinette” urged onlookers to “let them eat iPads” in response to requests by protesters for more librarians and nurses and smaller class sizes.
The reference was intended to question the Los Angeles Unified School District's priorities in spending so much for technology when campuses and students had other needs.
Victoria Casas, a teacher at Beachy Avenue Elementary School and a parent of two children in the district, said the program was unsustainable and that the district should steer money toward lowering class size and training.
“They quickly become obsolete,” she said. “How can we sustain the budget for this -- it’s irresponsible.”
Jehangir Dastur, who teaches first grade at Grand View Boulevard Elementary, said he is particularly upset about the use of facilities bond dollars being used to pay for the devices. His school, he said, is aging poorly and is in desperate need of repairs to student bathrooms and plumbing.
“It is a question of priorities,” Dastur said. “What are the priorities here?”
Galatzan, who was the target of much of the comments by protesters, has been a staunch supporter of the program.
“She has been the least critical supporter of the ‘full-speed-ahead approach,’” said UTLA president Warren Fletcher.
Fletcher said union members have serious concerns about the cost and usefulness of the iPad program.
In a revised spending plan that emerged this week, school district officials hope to spend $135 million in the spring semester for the next portion of the iPad distribution.
The money would pay for 24,541 tablets at 38 schools and 28,385 iPads for teachers and administrators across the school system. The plan also calls for buying an additional 67,480 tablets to allow for all students to take new state standardized tests with the tablet on a rotating basis. In addition, the plan calls for buying more than 116,000 keyboards and 2,000 storage and charging carts.
At the same hour, a Board of Education committee sought to address ongoing questions and concerns over the iPad program at the downtown district headquarters.