L.A. Unified uses ‘construction bonds’ to buy $500 million in iPads

Feb. 14, 2013

By Chris Reed

My five-month-old crusade to get the California mainstream media to acknowledge the insanity of “construction bonds” which take 30 years to pay off being used routinely by school districts for short-lived electronics and basic maintenance hasn’t gotten far yet. The most significant article from a respected mainstream education reporter about this outrage came in December from John Fensterwald in EdSource. State newspapers’ education reporters? They can’t be bothered.

Yes, the California media do care about nutty capital appreciation bonds, which can’t be prepaid and delay initial repayments for 20 years out, leading to such ridiculousness as the Poway Unified school district borrowing $105 million that will take $981 million to repay — beginning two decades from now. But the problem of using 30-year borrowing for short-term needs is much worse than CABs. It’s far more common; it’s everywhere.

Maybe what the Los Angeles Unified school board did Wednesday finally will give this issue the attention it deserves:

“During the … meeting, the board also approved {Superintendent John] Deasy’s proposal to spend millions to supply every student and teacher with a tablet computer by 2014. …

“Deasy’s plan to supply all 650,000 students in the district with a tablet computer by 2014 will ultimately cost $500 million. The tablets are supposed to support the transition to Common Core Standards. They are being paid for by revenues raised for school construction bonds R, Y, and Q, which voters approved to address ‘unmet facilities needs.’

“Several school principals spoke during the meeting about a spike in math and English test scores after incorporating tablet apps into their lesson plans.

“Gina Russell-Williams, principal at Curtiss Middle School, said the tablets would help her teachers provide additional intervention and tutorial services to students. Other teachers said teaching students on tablets would allow them to compete with wealthier, smaller, private schools.

“Board member Bennett Kayser abstained from the vote, saying in a statement after the meeting that the process should be slowed down and studied further. No one voted against the measure.”

Is giving kids quality high-tech devices to assist in their education a good idea? Of course.

Is giving kids quality high-tech devices to assist in their education a good idea if bonds to pay for the devices are still being paid off in 2043 — decades after the devices stopped being usable? Of course not. That’s grotesquely irresponsible.

If CEOs did what superintendents did, they’d be in jail

But what would be criminal or subject to shareholder lawsuits in the private sector is just fine in the corrupt world of public education.

The L.A. school board’s actions confirm what I heretofore will refer to as Reed’s Law: Whether in the Legislature or in local school districts, the top priority is always freeing up or increasing revenue to allow tenured teachers to receive the automatic “step” raises that typically are provided for 15 of their first 20 years on the job — just for showing up.

That’s why we see lies about attendance and property tax receipts. That’s why we see grotesque bond abuses. It’s all about preserving the pay status quo for veteran teachers. Understand this, and California politics becomes demystified and uncomplicated.

It’s not “all about the kids.” It’s all about the veteran teachers.

Maybe L.A. Unified spending a half-billion dollars over the next 30 years on iPads that will be broken or stolen by 2016 will finally hammer this home.


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  1. jimmydeeoc
    jimmydeeoc 14 February, 2013, 10:23

    I am sick to my stomach. It’s not your fault, Chris.

    Of the manifold government agencies and programs that are in some manner broken and dysfunctional, public education is at the top of the list.

    Reply this comment
  2. us citizen
    us citizen 14 February, 2013, 11:53

    I’m sorry but I don’t think spending money on school Ipads is right! What happened to learning the 3 r’s the old way? It has worked before. I see kids now days that can’t add 2 plus 2 or put a sentence together correctly. They can’t spell either. And none of this has anything to do with technology. Anddddddd most kids DON’T respect school supplies, let alone baby computers. This is a waste of money. More than likely the repairs to these things will way out cost the original price and will take time away from teaching when they have to be sent in to be fixed. Yeah, call me old fashion, I don’t care.

    Reply this comment
  3. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 14 February, 2013, 13:38

    These people are the reason the state is so F’ed up. This is insane, along the exact same lines of CAB. This would NEVER, EVER happen in the real world. You would be BK in a a nanosecond.

    Reply this comment
  4. Hondo
    Hondo 14 February, 2013, 13:49

    At my job as a slumlord, I have to show my new tenants how I pro rate their rent to the first. I say ” $6oo dollars a month divided by the 30 days in the month equals” and the new tenants are reaching for their cell phones calculators to figure it out. I say ” lets round it out to, say, $20 dollars a day.” and they look at me with awe as if I’m some math savant or some autistic dude from a movie called ‘the rainman’. Then I say ” there are 12 more days in the month so just say you owe $240″ And they look at my as if I’m sir Issac Newton and I just figured out some differential calculus equation in my head. I kid you not. This is Jr. high school math most tenants thinks I’m doing some quadratic equations just for fun.
    Calculators had just started showing up in school when I graduated high school. Teachers wouldn’t allow them in the classrooms. There was this thing called the SLIDE RULE. That was allowed.
    Just for fun, how many of you reading this KNOWS what a slide rule is. And do you have one in your house, by chance.
    A slide rule would be a far more economical piece of equitment to buy but I image most of the teachers would have to back to school to learn what they are and how to operate one.
    But what do I know.

    Reply this comment
  5. Hondo
    Hondo 14 February, 2013, 14:00

    And I imagine half those I Pads will either be broke or stolen by the end of the first semester.
    Call me crazy, but I think that already happened somewhere else.

    Reply this comment
  6. Hondo
    Hondo 14 February, 2013, 14:01

    I think it was in Detroit, of all places.

    Reply this comment
  7. us citizen
    us citizen 14 February, 2013, 14:39

    I have a slide rule!!! LOL

    We werent allowed to use calculators either. Had to do it long hand on paper because the teacher wanted to see your reasoning on how you got the answer. I hate to say it but many coming out of school now days are pretty much useless without their Ipads. So I guess you/we are brainiacs……….:)

    I love it when I go some place and the kid cant add. It’s always to my benefit.

    Reply this comment
  8. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 14 February, 2013, 15:52

    And I imagine half those I Pads will either be broke or stolen by the end of the first semester.
    This is what I was thinking. I give these electronic devices a two year life span in a school setting, MAX!

    Reply this comment
  9. Ftheunions
    Ftheunions 14 February, 2013, 19:12

    Not surprised whatsoever. Part of the problem is that these administrators–both at school level and district level–have little or no real understanding of finance. Their doctorates in Education were likely void of anything with academic rigor and likely included courses on how to manage and navigate through the bureaucracy to further preserve the Education racket. The doctorates these administrators earn provide nothing more than bureaucratic validation. In their normative world, “Every child an iPad” would be the order of the day. Provide every kid an iPad and dismiss the cost as necessary. I think most readers here would agree the life of those iPads would be a year or two–a lifespan only rivaled by the typical LAUSD student’s high school career.

    Reply this comment
  10. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 14 February, 2013, 20:32

    Over half of LAUSD students actually graduate, and at poor performing schools like Compton High it is only 20%, honest to god. I was offered a job at a Jr High feeder school to Compton HS and I was shocked the graduation rate was only 20%…..

    Reply this comment
  11. Ftheunions
    Ftheunions 15 February, 2013, 12:32

    Now imagine if you were to drop the 20 percent that do graduate into a high school whose standards have not been compromised by years of liberal education reform and curriculum softening. I doubt these kids could hold up well in a more rigorous environment. But the sad truth is that it’s not the kids’ fault–rather, it’s those who for years have thought it more pressing to have a child learn how to feel good than to think.

    Reply this comment
  12. Tom
    Tom 20 February, 2013, 11:10

    This is what I was thinking. I give these electronic devices a two year life span in a school setting, MAX!


    Here’s the irony, the iPad has a battery that drops to 80% capacity after 1000 charges. Those are Apple’s own estimates.

    If you’re using the iPad for most of the school day you’re going to need at least a charge a day, 2 if the students take them home (which they’ll have to if their text books are on there)

    Once the capacity drops it makes it very hard to use the iPad in a school setting anymore. Because they can no longer make it through the day on a single charge. So one way or another the iPad will only make it 3 to 4 years even if it doesn’t get broken or stolen.

    Reply this comment
  13. Julie
    Julie 26 October, 2013, 11:35

    You need to research “school reform” and see who is really behind it, and what they want. Look up the Broad Academy. Who benefits from the iPad scam? Not teachers or students. It’s Apple and the people who underwrite the bonds.

    Reply this comment
  14. John
    John 27 August, 2014, 13:41

    California= stupid

    Reply this comment

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