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What LAUSD can't buy with the iPad money

October 02, 2013|By Karin Klein
  • Students at Broadacres Elementary School in Carson enjoy exploring the offerings on their new iPads.
Students at Broadacres Elementary School in Carson enjoy exploring the… (Los Angeles Times )

Judging from the comments coming in to The Times regarding the various problems with the iPads supplied to students at L.A. Unified schools, the public is plenty mad about this $1-billion plan. Students hacking their iPads, some of the devices going missing, no clear policy on who pays if and when students lose or damage their tablets. As Times staff writer Howard Blume most recently reported,  the district now is collecting the tablets from at least some of the schools where they have been distributed.

The public understandably has a lot of questions (so does the Times editorial board, which raised concerns about the program when it was first proposed a year ago, and more recently); commenters  want investigations or they just want the whole program stopped.

But there is another thing that many of the commenters want that they cannot have — to have the billion dollars spent on hiring more teachers or restoring art or other programs that have been cut in recent years.

The money to buy the tablets and upgrade campuses with the Wi-Fi to operate them comes from school bonds that were passed by school-district voters — most recently, through a $7-billion bond measure that raised more money than the district needed. The bonds require only a 55% majority to pass, as opposed to most taxes, which require two-thirds of voters to approve them.

But they can be used only for capital expenditures — the purchase of land for schools, construction and durable campus equipment, such as chairs, desks, science labs and, yes, computers, or at least the desktops that stay on campus.

That money, though, cannot be used to hire teachers, restore instructional programs or even for school maintenance, though it can be used for renovation. The district takes nothing from classroom size or art programs by spending money on the iPads.

The more germane question, then, is whether L.A. Unified can use the bond money to buy the iPads, a topic for another post.


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