POLITICS

Los Angeles Schools Seeking Refund Over Botched iPad Plan

David Holmquist, Los Angeles Unified School District general counsel, comments on a multimillion-dollar settlement of 58 teac
David Holmquist, Los Angeles Unified School District general counsel, comments on a multimillion-dollar settlement of 58 teacher lewd acts claims in Los Angeles Tuesday, March 12, 2013. LAUSD will pay millions of dollars to settle dozens of legal actions stemming from an abuse case in which a former teacher is charged with lewd acts on children in his classroom over five years, district officials said Tuesday. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

(Reuters) - The Los Angeles Unified School District is seeking a refund from Apple Inc over the district's bungled $1.3 billion effort to supply students with iPads, the Los Angeles Times reported on Wednesday.

The district's initiative, launched in 2013, to equip each of its roughly 650,000 students with an iPad or another computer device with curriculum from Pearson Plc , was the largest educational technology project of its kind in the United States.

The project soon ran into difficulties, however, and the technology rollout encountered a series of problems, including students bypassing a security firewall on the iPads, while an independent report found that the built-in curriculum was often incomplete.

The Los Angeles Times said the LAUSD's Board of Education in a closed-door meeting on Tuesday authorized its attorneys to consider potential legal action against Apple and Pearson.

"As you are aware, LAUSD is extremely dissatisfied with the work of Pearson," the district's general counsel, David Holmquist, said in a letter to Apple on Monday, according to the Times. "While Apple and Pearson promised a state-of-the-art technological solution [...] they have yet to deliver it."

Holmquist added that the district was severing ties with both companies for future services on the project, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Reuters could not independently verify the report. Representatives for the district, Apple and Pearson could not be immediately reached for comment on Wednesday night.

Pearson spokeswoman Stacy Skelly told the Times that the company was "proud of our long history working with LAUSD and our significant investment in this ground-breaking initiative." She acknowledged to the paper that there had been difficulties, but the company would "stand by the quality of our performance."

John Deasy, Superintendent at the nation's second-largest school district before he resigned in October, described the project as a civil rights initiative to help the district's mostly disadvantaged students. But he drew criticism over the process used to select Apple and Pearson.

The FBI is investigating the project, and agents in December seized 20 boxes of documents relating to the program's purchasing process from the district's headquarters.

Current LAUSD Superintendent, Ramon Cortines, said in February that the district could not afford the program, signaling that he was ready to abandon it.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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