NC spends $6 million in ‘found’ taxpayer money to buy 24,000 iPads for schools

Investigators

As another school year starts there will be something new added to teachers’ “toolbox” in the early grades: it’s $6 million worth of iPads.

The iPad effort is part of an attempt by North Carolina State Superintendent Mark Johnson to get more technology in the classrooms.

But, it was just three months ago that thousands of teachers rallied in Raleigh saying they were concerned over a lack of funding for schools from the state.

So how does the state justify spending that money?

“It’s not just a tool for teachers to help in their classrooms, it’s a tool that can be used for students,” says Johnson.

Johnson says he pushed the purchase of the iPads using money that literally had been sitting around unused.

“The iPads, that was money we found that was supposed to be spent in 2016,” said Johnson, who added the funds were part of money allocated for classrooms that was never spent by the previous administration.

When he discovered the money, Johnson says he went to the N.C. General Assembly and asked to carry it over to this school year to buy what he said was “the most impactful tool we could use that money for.”

Johnson says literary experts in the department told him the best tool they could buy would be iPads.

Some parents are on board with the technology.

“It’s great,” said parent Gina Marquez. “The technology is cutting edge. It’s a cool thing for the students.”

Marquez also believes that was a good use of taxpayer money.

The state spent $6 million on 24,000 iPads.

Most will go to public and charter schools but there are hundreds that are being stored.

“The ones we are warehousing, we’re actually going to work to get them to teachers who’ll start to use them in a new program where instead of testing students in second or third grade, they’ll let students use those iPads,” said Johnson.

“Students will go online, get the information they need, do the work on the iPads and (teachers will) not have to test them,” he said.

Not every school will get the same number of iPads. Click here to view the number of iPads and money spent per school system or charter school.

In the Triangle area, public records for purchase orders obtained by CBS 17 indicate the breakdown. Click here to view all purchase orders.

  • Wake County – 2,477 iPads
  • Cumberland County – 821 iPads
  • Durham Public Schools – 535 iPads
  • Johnston County – 519 iPads
  • Harnett County – 333 iPads
  • Chapel Hill /Carrboro Schools – 181 iPads

CBS 17 wanted to know how school districts will keep tabs on the devices.

In Wake County there is a formal inventory tracking system that includes a database for all computers and the iPads will be included in that system.

However, because Wake County already bought iPads for schools from funding that comes from a school bond approved by voters, the 2,477 iPads received from the state will be kept in reserve to use as replacements.

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