Despite opposition by parents and teachers to the Pearson Education Corporation’s Common Core curriculum, conflicts of interest may explain why the Los Angeles School District administrators have been so adamant to implement the standards.
Since release of a devastating conflicts report by the school district’s Inspector General and proof that the District Attorney has been reviewing the matter, the L.A. School District Superintendent, Apple Computer and Common Core’s publisher Pearson Education have been unavailable for comment, according to the Los Angeles Times‘ reporting.
A Times report revealed that senior Los Angeles school district officials, including Superintendent John Deasy, had a close working relationship with Apple Corporation and Pearson Education executives before the companies were awarded the bulk of a $1-billion contract to provide iPads loaded exclusively with Pearson software to every student in the nation’s second-largest school system.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office has been looking at the potential conflicts unearthed by the school district’s Inspector General, but has so far found there was no “criminal wrongdoing” in the bidding process. Yet the IG’s report establishes that despite ethical and policy restrictions, Deasy and other district officials tried to influence the outcome once the bidding process had begun by collaborating with Apple and Pearson corporate executives.
The LA Board of Education in June 2013 approved the controversial “speedy districtwide expansion” of the Common Core implementation to provide all students, teachers and principals with Apple iPads loaded exclusively with Pearson Common Core curriculum. At the time of the approval, Superintendent Deasy acknowledged his conflict of interest as an Apple shareholder and had supposedly recused himself from the Board’s decision.
The launch of the project was a complete disaster when software glitches caused the iPads to freeze and hundreds of students in the first week hacked their iPads to gain access to restricted sites, including pornography. By simply deleting personal profiles from the district-issued iPads, students could browse supposedly blocked websites such as Twitter, Facebook, Pandora and others.
Despite the overwhelming turmoil, school district administrators surprisingly continued to give their full support to the rollout.
Now, for the first time, it has been revealed that the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office has been reviewing potential conflicts unearthed by the Inspector General. The DA has so far found there was no criminal wrongdoing in the bidding process, but the newly released evidence indicates Deasy and other district officials had undisclosed ties with Apple and Pearson corporate executives that may have influenced the firms’ winning the bids.
According to the Inspector General’s documents, Pearson appeared to be directly involved with Deputy Superintendent Jaime Aquino in developing L.A. Unified’s 5-year technology plan, which was approved by the Board of Education in May 2012.
The bidding period began in March 2013 and several months later three finalists were selected by the Board of Education. Each proposal included a computer device paired with an online curriculum. But all three exclusively used Pearson Education’s Common Core curriculum. Two of the proposals were for iPads–one from Apple and one from a third-party vendor. On the recommendation of school district staff, the Board approved the Apple/Pearson bid after a brief discussion.
The Times made a “California Public Records Act” request a year ago, but never received a response until August 22. The release of the Inspector General’s report followed disclosure the day before of a draft School District Committee report that found the bidding process to be flawed and that it could create an appearance the process was unfair.
The Times should be applauded for uncovering an allegedly close level of participation by LA School Board officials in preferentially working with Apple and Pearson. With the new disclosure of the a draft School District Committee report that found the LA School District’s bidding process to be flawed and appearing to be unfair, there is a chance that the Los Angeles District Attorney may reopen the investigation.
To learn more about how money and government seem to work together in in the Golden State, please click on California Prison Early Release Turns into Flood.