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Opinion

Readers React: Did the LAUSD’s iPad debacle in 2013 doom Measure EE?

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Students at Broadacres Elementary School in Carson explore the features of their LAUSD-issued iPads on Aug. 27, 2013.
(Bob Chamberlin / Associated Press)

When it became clear Tuesday night that the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Measure EE parcel tax was headed to a decisive defeat, I thought about iPads.

That’s because about six years ago, several readers warned in letters to the editor that the district’s bungled $1-billion effort to give an Apple iPad to each of its 600,000-plus students would make them more inclined to reject future LAUSD bond initiatives. The writers said they felt deceived by the district’s use of money that had been approved by voters for construction.

The letters, published in 2013 and 2014, arguably foreshadowed Measure EE’s easy defeat.

On Oct. 17, 2013, William Lovelace of Los Angeles expressed his anger:

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“L.A. Unified’s purchase of iPads for its students is an outrage. The public voted on a bond issue for school renovations and construction.

“This is not a class-warfare issue; it is a bait-and-switch issue. The district took money intended to be spent on projects that would last for years and instead bought items that have a short shelf life.

“If district officials truly feel that giving every student an iPad will be helpful, they should put an iPad bond issue before voters and sell their idea to us.”

On Jan. 4, 2014, Emily Waldron Loughran of Los Angeles warned she would vote no on future bond initiatives:

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“Thanks to The Times for exposing the great iPad travesty. I will certainly never vote for a school bond again if this is the way the money is wasted.

“As a parent of two elementary schoolchildren, I see little if any evidence that iPads can effectively replace textbooks. For example, my children actually prefer doing math with pencil and paper and dedicate their iPad time to mindless games.

“Smaller classes with textbooks and workbooks would be a far better use of bond money.”

On June 23, 2013, George Garcia of Long Beach predicted future voter cynicism:

“The decision by the LAUSD to use school construction bonds to pay for Apple iPads is a violation of the voters’ trust. Surely it was the intent of the voters who approved these bonds for the district to purchase infrastructure that will last the decades it will take to pay down the debt.

“New computer systems are traditionally purchased through grants or by using monies from a district’s general fund. The state ought to find a way to overturn the LAUSD’s decision and make it clear that the use of school construction bonds must not be used for projects other than infrastructure.

“If the state does not act, then the voters will — by becoming cynical and voting against future measures to fund education.”

On Sept. 28, 2013, Los Angeles resident S.R. Fischer stated his feelings bluntly:

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“It will be a very cold day in hell the next time I vote to increase my taxes to pay for any more school bonds, which the district is using to pay for the iPads.”

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