SEC questions LA Unified about iPad program
Craig Clough | April 16, 2015
The Securities and Exchange Commission has met with LA Unified seeking more information about its use of bond money for purchasing iPads that were pre-loaded with software supplied by education giant, Pearson.
The meeting into the now-cancelled $1.3 billion program was “informal,” according to the Los Angeles Times, which said it focused on if the district properly disclosed to investors and others how the bonds would be used.
District officials told the Times they were optimistic they had addressed the SEC’s concerns, and it is not clear if the inquiry is now closed or still ongoing.
“They asked us to come in and present to them on the bonds themselves,” Thomas Zaccaro, a partner with a law firm that presented information to the SEC along with the district, told The Associated Press. “All in all, we don’t see any issue with the disclosures.”
The meeting comes on the heels of an announcement by the district yesterday that it would seek reimbursements on thousands of devices that had been delivered with what it said was ineffective Pearson software.
The SEC does not typically comment on or even acknowledge the existence of an investigation, and declined to comment to the Times and the AP.
The SEC inquiry is the latest in a long line of bad news and poor outcomes for the iPad program, a signature initiative of former Superintendent John Deasy that sought to get an iPad loaded with educational software from Pearson into the hands of every student and teacher in the district.
The program, which was part of the Common Core Technology Project, faced controversy from the start, beginning with the unorthodox use bond funds to pay for the devices. Although unanimously approved by the LA Unified school board in 2013, support for the program began to erode as its pilot program was rolled out. The issues included ineffective Pearson software, students easily deactivating the devices ‘content filters and difficulties with distributing and tracking the devices.
In 2014, emails between Deasy, his deputy, Apple and Pearson raised questions about the bidding process, leading Deasy to cancel the contract with Apple and restart the bid in August. Although Deasy questioned the motives of his critics, he resigned in October. In December, the FBI seized files related to the program bidding process as part of a grand jury investigation.
Deasy’s replacement, Ramon Cortines, cancelled the entire iPad program shortly after the FBI investigation was made public.