LAUSD has a $543M shortfall, but is spending $500M on iPads?
I believe that technology can improve education, but I’m not sure that we know how to use it well. I wouldn’t be comfortable making this kind of bet, that the $500M on iPads is a better investment than paying off the $534M shortfall — but I guess that’s why I’m not in charge of half billion dollar bets. Why do people have such (unproven) faith in technology? Is this the same as the arguments for the OLPC in the developing world?
Los Angeles, again, is a good example; the same school district that is going to spend a half-billion dollars on iPads has been laying off teachers. To justify those layoffs, the school districts have been citing a $543 million district budget shortfall, yet somehow, those same officials apparently don’t cite that same budget shortfall as a reason to avoid spending $500 million on iPads. Why? Because education technology triumphalists typically portray iPads as long-term cost cutters for school districts.
As the New York Times sums up that argument, these triumphalists believe iPads and attendant iBooks will “save money in the long run by reducing printing and textbook costs.” The enticing idea is that schools may have to invest huge money upfront, but they will supposedly see huge savings in out years.
The trouble is that there is little evidence to suggest that’s true, and plenty of evidence to suggest the opposite is the case.
As respected education consultant Lee Wilson notes in a report breaking down school expenses, “It will cost a school 552% more to implement iPad textbooks than it does to deploy books.” He notes that while “Apple’s messaging is the idea that at $14.99 an iText is significantly less expensive than a $60 textbook,” the fact remains that “when a school buys a $60 textbook today they use it for an average of 5-7 years (while) an Apple iText it costs them $14.99 per student – per year.” As Lee notes, that translates into iBooks that are 34 percent more expensive than their paper counterparts — and that’s on top of the higher-than-the-retail-store price school districts are paying for iPads.