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You Know I'm Right | Commentary by Betty Arenson
| Friday, Oct 25, 2013

bettyarensonThe point of the original commentary, “Paying For the Best” (Oct. 4) was to highlight the perpetual assertion by bureaucrats that the public pays for the best people to do their jobs. Purportedly for the citizens.

Unfortunately it is proven time and time again that the “best” fail miserably, and they just keep on going.

In that commentary, the example of failure was the decision by L.A. Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy to spend more than $1 billion to buy iPads for every student and (now more defined), every teacher in the LAUSD. That is 650,000 students in more than 1,000 schools.

The $1 billion was to include extra teacher instruction and necessary wiring in all schools.

The first commentary turned into a Part 2 (Oct. 11) when the dismal failures kept mounting with the iPad program that incredibly Deasy termed “an astonishing success.”

Not intended on my part was the continuing saga. Every week, more and more is reported. It seems wise to keep telling John Q. Public Taxpayer, with one more example, how his tax dollars are being wasted.

While the obvious subject is the iPad program, the real subject matter remains the massive incompetence of the LAUSD personnel at the top.

Don’t let this subject escape you as a Los Angeles City issue; it is not.  School funding is provided by the state as well as the feds, and indeed every taxpayer has an interest in that.

LAUSD is the second largest school system in the country.  You know this massive wasting of billions of dollars is not just happening here.

Here’s the synopsis and update.

The whole iPad rollout is stalled because of operating incompetence.  One issue was not securing the unauthorized areas, and the kids hacked through the no-no sites at the onset.

The original contract with Apple was our tax dollars to pay $678 per device. The district admitted (with no explanation) $678 was more than if the devices had ben purchased over the counter.

The units came with inadequate software downloads.

Reportedly Apple’s contract says they’ll replace up to three years, but it is unclear how limited or restrictive that replacement clause is. Will they replace for careless loss?  How can it be determined they weren’t simply sold? Further, when does the 3-year period start, considering this program is barely beginning and seems to be on hold?

As if the $678 per device being overpriced were not enough of a slap, the following was not considered:

* whether school construction bond money can be legally used for the iPads;

* would students be allowed to take them away from the classroom (home);

* the inadequacy of the security filters;

* who would be financially responsible for loss or damage;

* the necessity of keyboards (later quoted at an additional $38 million);

* the cost of classroom carts to charge and secure the units; increased price to date is $600,000;

* the software curriculum is incomplete and the future not defined. With the contract (3-year term) being between Pearson Education Inc. and Apple, there seems to be no control by LAUSD;

* what is the onset date of that contract?

This week the LAUSD revealed a “revised budget,” and the original costs were “understated.” The “best” had not considered taxes or mandatory recycling fees.

Additionally, the iPads will cost another $100 each, if the district doesn’t buy at  least 520,000 units which could meet the contract’s mandatory $400 million base expenditure.

That is confusing.  Unless there is a timeline issue in the contract, the district says it needs 650,000 iPads …so what’s the problem?

The assertions don’t match the simple math.

Today:

* The iPads will cost (at least) $770 each, even though the original $678 was overpriced;

* so far, there is an additional $38 million need for keyboards;

* sales taxes and mandatory recycling fees haven’t been considered, bringing the $678 to $744 before the extra $100 penalty;

* basic operation costs (maintenance) of $550,000 today are now shifted to the general fund, as other costs will be in the future.

In summary, if the district pulls the plug on this fiasco or does not end up buying more than 520,000 iPads, the disclosed costs so far of each iPad will be $903 (simple math from reports given: $744 + 100 + $59 *keyboards).

The state still requires schools to buy textbooks. So far, all of this software data and $1 billion have not obviated that law.

Two weeks ago, Deasy said of his pet project: “It’s an astonishing success.”

This week, the district said its technology initiative is “amazing.”

Again: from the “best.”

 

Betty Arenson has lived in the SCV since 1968 and describes herself as a conservative who’s concerned about progressives’ politics and their impacts on the country, her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She says she is unashamed to own a gun or a Bible, couldn’t care less about the color of the president’s skin, and demands that he uphold his oath to protect and follow the Constitution of the United States in its entirety. Her commentary publishes Fridays.

 

 

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