More on LAUSD: Bond Money, Aquino, Broad, and (Again with) Pearson
Yesterday, I wrote a post on some of the conflicts of interest and obvious profiteering posed by the involvement of Deasy, Apple, Pearson, and Gates in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) iPad fiasco.
In this post, I examine more of the situation as I reflect upon issues raised by the June 2013 Los Angeles Daily News article cited in my previous post.
LAUSD Votes 6-0?
Let me begin with the LAUSD vote. According to the Daily News article, the LAUSD board voted 6-0 (one abstention) to approve a $30 million contract considered to be only “the first phase” in these iPad purchases. Furthermore, the plan on which the board voted 6-0 included a shady (mis?)appropriating of two school construction bonds.
Here is what baffles me: Steve Zimmer and Monica Ratliff are going along with this terrible plan.
Ratliff says to judge her by her votes.
I invite her to respond.
I offer the same invitation to Zimmer, who is quoted in the June 2013 Los Angeles Daily News as assuring the public that LAUSD operated using “highest integrity and above-boardness” in awarding the Apple contract.
Monica, Steve: What have you done?
Measures R and Y: Combing for Loopholes
My first post elicited some informative comments, including the estimated cost at $35 million of purchasing the keyboards for only the first round of 30,000 iPads (this source quotes $28 million); the question of insurance on the devices; the understanding that the iPads were not to be removed from the school site, and the understanding that students would pay replacement costs for the iPads if damaged.
There is also the LAUSD agreement to wire students’ homes where needed– which could result in an additional annual cost of $100 million.
Now it seems that LAUSD is saying No to students’ taking the hackable iPads home.
In true reformer fashion, LAUSD has leaped before it looked. In the end, how many millions (billions?) will be squandered, only to make fat the Apple and Pearson coffers?
I did learn how LAUSD could argue legally (not necessarily ethically) that it might be justified in earmarking construction funding in order to purchase iPads. Consider this excerpt from this 2005 Measure R audit report:
The proceeds from the Measure R School Bonds are to be used for projects such as: continue repair/upgrade of aging classrooms, restrooms; build neighborhood schools, early education centers; improve security systems, fire/earthquake safety; purchase library books; upgrade computer technology; eliminate asbestos and lead paint hazards; create small learning communities; and construct/upgrade science laboratories and other buildings. [Emphasis added.]
Shady interpretation of this document, to be sure. However, let me mention something I have learned regarding Eli Broad’s presence in education reform: Broadies comb a district’s legal documents in pursuit of linguistic loopholes that allow footholds for their reformer agendas. It seems that Measure R offers as much, as does Measure Y.
Document Combing for Loopholes must be a Broad Superintendents Academy course. This I do not know firsthand since all of my formal education has been at accredited institutions.
Back to the bond issue.
It isn’t as though LAUSD buildings are in top shape and all other, arguably higher priority, needs met, making millions (billions?) in bond money expendable. As biostatistician and mother of LAUSD students Sara Roos notes:
…As it is, our public school children in large numbers attend schools with insufficient funds to keep their bathrooms clean. Their schools are sweltering hot as air conditioning units remain broken for months. Musical instruments in disrepair are contracted to private repairers at enormous, inefficient expense while music programs are shuttered one by one for lack of funds (and instruments that remain broken). Troubled students attend schools with inadequate psychiatric and counseling assistance; school nurses are a rare luxury on campus.
The list goes on and on and on and on with an utter insufficiency of funds to redress a fraction of the desperate conditions. Providing our students with state-of-the-art electronics is a wonderful goal. But prioritizing this ahead of basic human necessities is just a feel-good measure for insulated bureaucrats. [Emphasis added.]
Behind LAUSD are billionaires bent on their versions of reform–and their vision for LAUSD appears to be following a stay-at-home, electronic public education. Let the buildings fall apart. We don’t need them, Give a kid an iPad with Pearson software and let him learn at home. It’s cost effective. Freeloading unionized teachers don’t teach, anyway.
Broad, Aquino, Pearson
Of course, Eli Broad’s presence in LAUSD is no secret. And he is not alone:
Since 2009, the (LAUSD) district has accepted millions in grant funding from philanthropic organizations to pay for executive positions.
Grants have included at least $4.4 million from The Wasserman Foundation, founded by entertainment mogul Lew Wasserman, and at least $1.2 million from the Walton Foundation, started by Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton and his wife, Helen.
Billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad has also paid for the salaries of key district staff and he contributed $775,000 for Deasy’s transition work, including $500,000 for an audit to find budget efficiencies at LAUSD. [Emphasis added.]
Eli Broad seeks “budget efficiencies.” Does that translate into locating Measures R and Y loopholes for financing multi-million-dollar iPad purchases?
Broad-trained Deputy Superintendent Jaime Aquino is all for this iPad nonsense. Says Aquino in June:
“I’m in awe of how we have done this process,” Aquino responded. “My conscience is clear that we’ve done the right thing for our kids.”
Yet Aquino resigned from LAUSD only months later in September 2013 amid exposure of his Pearson connection:
In the face of accusations that superintendent Aquino came to LAUSD on the heels of employment with the sole software vendor to profit from this $1 billion dollar deal, there is an appearance that far from constructing this contract “in the best interest of our kids”, this contract, at least in its software component, is suspiciously structured in the best interest of the multinational publisher Pearson. [Emphasis added.]
Looks like Aquino’s exit is perfect for him: LAUSD is mired in what is expected to be a $1 billion iPad Money Drain, with a major siphoning hose leading into Pearson’s wallet. How grateful Pearson must be to Aquino.
So, as was true in my first post on Deasy, Apple, Pearson, and Gates, this second post only highlights the fact that the real winners in LAUSD corporate reform are the corporations.