Mecklenburg County educator and muckraking commentator Justin Parmenter is out with a new post about the controversial Apple iPads that North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson purchased under highly questionable circumstances last year. As readers will recall from Policy Watch journalist Billy Ball’s exclusive reporting, the $6 million purchase took place months after the company spent more than $5,300 on meals, transportation and lodging for the benefit of Johnson, three state lawmakers and two local superintendents at the company’s Silicon Valley headquarters.
Parmenter reports that a source within DPI tells him that more than 3,000 of the devices have not been distributed and are gathering dust in a Raleigh warehouse. This is from Parmenter’s story, “3,269 iPads are collecting dust in the NC Department of Public Instruction textbook warehouse“:
Apart from the ethical questions raised by the interaction with Apple, the fact that this purchase was made by the superintendent at all was problematic. State law holds that individual school districts should be provided with funds for electronic devices and allowed to make decisions about purchases on their own. After all, each district’s needs and capabilities are different.
At the February meeting of the State Board of Education, Mark Johnson acknowledged as much, admitting that some districts preferred to use Google Chromebooks and noting there were unused iPads remaining in the warehouse (apparently they were sent out to school districts that didn’t want them and then returned).
Johnson said the plan was to distribute those iPads in the spring. When pressed by board member Wayne McDevitt on the exact number of iPads in the warehouse, the superintendent said he didn’t have the exact number but it was in the “low thousands.”
When the State Board met in March, Superintendent Johnson was again asked how many iPads remained in the warehouse, this time by Chairman Eric Davis. Johnson put the number at “just over 2,000” and said they would be distributed in spring and summer so they could be used for the 2019-2020 school year.
It turns out that number was off–by quite a lot.
According to a source within DPI, as of August 2019, the number of iPads currently in the warehouse is 3,269. That’s right, nearly 15% of the iPads Mark Johnson bought without consulting districts are collecting dust at the North Carolina Textbook Warehouse in Raleigh.
Let’s leave aside for a moment the argument that these tablets should probably never have been purchased to begin with, due to ethical and procedural considerations. The fact is they belong to North Carolina taxpayers now. And they need to be in classrooms in front of our students.
Click here to read Parmenter’s entire story.