Education

LAUSD iPad settlement now coming out of Pearson’s pocket

FILE: Cristina Zaldivar, 9, uses an iPad to learn to draw at the Bell Technology Center during a computer class.
FILE: Cristina Zaldivar, 9, uses an iPad to learn to draw at the Bell Technology Center during a computer class.
Dorian Merina/KPCC

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Education company Pearson PLC said on Friday it is paying for the settlement negotiated by Los Angeles Unified with the Apple and Lenovo computer firms over the botched software used in the iPads-for-all program.

Pearson created the educational program that was installed in thousands of tablets that LAUSD distributed beginning in fall 2013. The effort was part of a $1 billion technology program to get the devices in the hands of each student.

Teachers and students almost immediately reported significant problems with the software, including missing math problems and errors in the material. Many teachers concluded that the curriculum program did not fit their students' needs and stopped using it.

The district announced in April it would no longer use the software and demanded a refund from Apple. In September, Superintendent Ramon Cortines said the district had negotiated a $6.4 million settlement with Apple and Lenovo.

But on Thursday, the district said it will be Pearson that will pay the settlement. The company will pay $4.2 million directly to LAUSD and reimburse Lenovo for a $2.25 million account credit that Lenovo is providing the school district.

In written statements issued, the district did not blame the companies for the software problems and Pearson did not apologize or explain how the issues occurred.

Neither the district nor Pearson would explain how Pearson ended up paying the settlement rather than Apple and Lenovo as earlier announced.

Pearson is "not going into other details about the settlement process,” said company spokeswoman Laura Gamble by email.

LAUSD called the Pearson settlement, approved by the school board on Tuesday, an “amicable agreement.” The school district plans to use most of the settlement money to fund technology proposals submitted by individual schools.

The district softened its description of the Pearson software since school district attorney David Holmquist stated in his strongly worded letter in April that Apple and Pearson failed to deliver the state-of-the-art technology they had promised. Holmquist declared the district was "extremely dissatisfied."

LAUSD spokeswoman Shannon Haber said in an email: “Due to multiple factors, it became clear that this was not the right solution for LAUSD’s technology program at this time. However, we continue to work with Pearson in some areas.”

LAUSD's purchase of the iPads and the problems that followed contributed to the departure of former Superintendent John Deasy, the tech program’s strongest advocate. Deasy resigned last year following revelations that district officials communicated with Apple and Pearson details of the tablet program before the project was put out to bid. Deasy has denied any wrongdoing.

The FBI launched an investigation into the iPad purchase in December, carting out 20 boxes from the district office on bidding material, communications and other records involving Apple and Pearson.