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Superintendent Mark Johnson’s controversial iPads, plus 800 more, to be distributed this school year

A spokesman for State Superintendent Mark Johnson said Wednesday the

N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson

remaining 2,400 iPads purchased for North Carolina’s schools in 2018 will be distributed this year.

N.C. Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) spokesman Graham Wilson said the 2,400 iPads bought to support early childhood literacy, plus an additional 800 purchased last month, will be delivered to schools in the coming weeks.

“Extensive, strategic work has been conducted by DPI over the summer to deliver more funds and supports to schools – and over 800 additional iPads were purchased a month ago as part of that overall plan. The plan will be announced next week,” Wilson said.

In all, Johnson bought 24,000 iPads. They have been the source of much discussion by critics still angry about the superintendent’s decision to buy iPads without first informing the State Board of Education (SBE).

The purchase also raised concerns because Johnson spent $6.6 million in unspent Read to Achieve dollars to buy the iPads under a no-bid contract.

Around the time the iPads were purchased, NCDPI sent layoff notices to dozens of employees to help meet a $5.1 million state-ordered budget cut. That move angered critics who wanted the money used to save jobs.

Ethical questions were also raised after Policy Watch reported that Johnson and three influential Republican budget writers in the North Carolina General Assembly were wined and dined by Apple reps at their Cupertino, Calif., headquarters prior to the purchase.

Apple spent more than $5,300 on transportation, lodging and meals on a total of six North Carolina leaders.

Meanwhile, the 2,400 iPads have been stashed in the state Textbook Warehouse for nearly a year.

In March, Johnson told the SBE the distribution of the iPads was delayed due to Hurricane Florence, which forced many school districts in the Eastern part of the state to close.

Johnson said the leftover devices would go to schools where they are needed to enhance personalized learning.

“We’re going to strategically get those [in schools] to get the ratios up where the ratios are still low in districts that are high needs and especially schools that are high needs in those high needs districts,” Johnson told the SBE. “They will be getting those iPads.”

Some school districts preferred Chromebooks and were given money to buy them, Johnson said.

 

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