In a surprise visit to Los Angeles Unified School District’s offices, Tuesday FBI agents seized 20 boxes of documents in response to a federal grand jury subpoena regarding possible contract fraud involving a $1.3 billion Common Core iPad technology project.
According to Mashable, without providing any information regarding the probe, the FBI confirmed the investigation into the LAUSD. Documents confiscated by the FBI involved the procurement practices of the LAUSD in its beleaguered plan to provide iPads for 650,000 students in the nation’s second largest school district.
Last year when the district first provided the iPads, students easily circumvented security installations and were surfing the web, downloading games and using them for other non-curriculum related activities.
The Los Angeles Times reported that the iPads-for-all project was a signature initiative of Former L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy. Deasy, who resigned under pressure in October to a great extent stemming from the failed program, claimed that the project was a “civil rights imperative — to provide low-income students equal access to technology.”
The District which is a consistent low achiever in nationwide standardized academic tests exhausted much of the limited bond funds available on the $billion dollar technology boondoggle.
“The idea of providing first class learning technology to all the kids in the district, not just the kids who could afford it, is certainly a worthy educational goal,” opined Charles Taylor Kerchner, a Claremont Graduate University professor. “That worthy goal runs up against problems of organizational feasibility, and it did from the beginning.”
A former federal prosecutor, Ariel Neuman, speculated that the FBI is probably investigating possible fraud involving the contracts.
The improprieties at issue in this case were reported back in August when KPCC revealed that notes were going back and forth with Apple and software provider Pearson long before the tech contract was ultimately opened for competitive bidding.
The KPCC report found that “Deasy and his deputies communicated with Pearson employees over pricing, teacher training and technical support — specifications that later resembled the district’s request for proposals from vendors. Pearson and Apple emerged as the winning bidders and were awarded the now-abandoned contract in June 2013.”
L.A. schools Interim Superintendent Ramon Cortines stated that “The L.A Unified School District will offer its full cooperation to federal authorities during the course of the investigation.”