Benjamin Herold of Education Week has written an excellent overview of the confusion surrounding Los Angeles’ iPad purchase for every student in the district.

The cost–anticipated ultimately to be in excess of $1 billion–is one concern at a time when classes are overcrowded, and many schools are in need of repair, and thousands of teachers were laid off.

The uncertainty about how the iPads will be used, whether at home or in school; the uncertainty about the quality of the Pearson content; the certainty that the license on the Pearson content will expire in three years; the confusion about whether it was proper to divert funding from a 25-year construction bond to purchase tablets…..all of this and more should be closely scrutinized.

Instead, the district and its leadership will be bogged down in an extended discussion of John Deasy’s future; whether he resigned or only threatened to resign; whether the business community and the mayor can prevail; whether Deasy will ultimately make the board powerless by asserting that his power base is stronger than theirs, even though they were elected by the people.

One happy note: Pearson is happy with Los Angeles’ decision to give Pearson control of the content of the iPads.

I hope you can gain access to the article behind Education Week’s paywall. Here is a sample:

But the new software from the publishing giant Pearson that has been rolled out in dozens of schools is nowhere near complete, the Los Angeles Unified School District is unable to say how much it costs, and the district will lose access to content updates, software upgrades, and technical support from Pearson after just three years.

The situation is prompting a new round of questions about an initiative already under withering scrutiny following a series of logistical and security snags.

The Common Core Technology Project, as Los Angeles Unified’s iPad initiative is formally known, is among the first attempts in the country to marry digital devices with a comprehensive digital curriculum from a single vendor. The ambitious effort makes the 651,000-student school system a bellwether for districts seeking a soup-to-nuts solution that implements the new Common Core State Standards, increases students’ access to technology, and moves away from paper textbooks.

“I think it’s the front end of a wave,” said Karen Cator, the CEO of the Washington-based nonprofit Digital Promise and a former director of the U.S. Department of Education’s school technology office.

But just weeks before the Los Angeles school board decides whether to authorize the initiative’s second phase—expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars—implementation problems related to the new digital curriculum are rearing their head.

Pearson’s Common Core System of Courses, meant to eventually become the district’s primary instructional resource in both math and English/language arts for kindergarten through 12th grade, currently consists of just a few sample lessons per grade, resulting in widespread frustration and confusion among classroom teachers.

In addition, the amount the district is paying to Pearson remains a mystery, leading to increasingly pointed questions from the school system’s divided school board, which called a special meeting to discuss the overall iPad initiative next week.