The Los Angeles Unified School District will pay substantially less for thousands of iPads under the latest deal with Apple. The cost of the tablets that will be used on new state tests will be about $200 less per device, although the computers won't include curriculum.
The revised price will be $504, compared to $699 for the iPads with curriculum. With taxes and other fees, the full cost of the more fully equipped devices rises to $768.
The iPads are part of a $1-billion effort to provide a computer to every student, teacher and administrator in the nation's second-largest school system. In response to concerns and problems, officials have slowed down the districtwide rollout, which began at 47 schools in the fall.
L.A. Unified has also been under pressure to contain costs; it recently became clear that the district is paying more for devices than most other school systems. The higher price results mainly from L.A. Unified's decision to purchase relatively costly devices and to include curriculum.
District officials recently restarted negotiations with Apple and achieved two concessions. The first is that Apple would provide the latest iPad, rather than a discontinued model for which L.A. Unified was paying top dollar. The second is that Apple agreed to consider a lower price on machines for which curriculum was not necessary.
Deciding what that reduced price would be took several weeks.
The Board of Education authorized the latest iPad purchase Jan. 14, when price negotiations already were underway. At the time, L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy said he needed immediate board approval so the district could buy the iPads in time for this spring's state standardized tests. These exams are being administered by computer for the first time.
After the protracted negotiations, the purchase order finally went out Wednesday.
The lower price applies to about 45,500 iPads. If these devices ever need curriculum, the district would have to pay the balance of the original price. A three-year license to use the curriculum would begin when it is activated. This alleviates some concerns that have been voiced about the curriculum. Critics have worried that the curriculum license could expire before teachers made much use of it.
Another issue is whether campuses will be able to connect properly to the Internet. Other school systems face similar challenges.
L.A. Unified plans to address this challenge with the help of carts that are used to store and charge the iPads. Each cart will be plugged into a school's hard-wired network. Then, the cart will become a "hot spot" to which all the devices in a room will connect wirelessly.
"According to the specs, this will work. Now, the district needs to go out and check that it's that way in the real world," said Thomas A. Rubin, a consultant for a district committee that oversees the spending of voter-approved school construction bonds. These funds are being used to pay for the iPad project.
"Each school has to have a plan on how it's going to do the test," Rubin said. "There is no cookie cutter. And at most schools, no one is capable of putting this plan together. The district still has a ... lot of work to do to make sure this succeeds."