The city Department of Education has paid $897 each for 300,000 iPads, plus various services to get them running, for students learning from home during the COVID-19 shutdown, officials said.
The DOE claimed it scored discounts, paying Apple $429 apiece for an iPad model — 7th generation with 32 gigabytes — which retails for $459, and $49.95 for cases that retail for $69.95. That came to $478.95 for each iPad and case.
But the educrats plunked down another $478 for each device to pay various companies, including IBM and T-Mobile, to equip the devices, the department acknowledged.
The total cost: $269,187,271, the DOE said. The department will seek federal reimbursement, it added.
At least one lawmaker, City Councilman Ben Kallos, said the DOE “got a bad deal,” because laptops are not only much cheaper than iPads but better for schoolwork.
“This is such a waste of money,” he told the Post.
DOE spokeswoman Miranda Barbot called it a “cost effective long-term investment in our kids that will be used as an educational tool long after the COVID crisis passes.”
The iPads are being “loaned” to kids, not given for free. A tracking device is installed in case kids do not return them.
Barbot said the DOE chose iPads because Apple could commit to producing devices on a large scale in a short time frame and give students connectivity without WiFi.
But the devices have arrived on a rolling basis, and many kids still lack them.
To date, 231,000 iPads have been received, Barbot said. A total 225,000 students have requested a device, with requests “still coming in.”
Kallos, a former software developer and website designer, said the DOE could have saved a lot of money on laptops instead, such as a Lenovo model selling for $299 at a major retailer.
The keyboards that come with laptops make writing papers and other schoolwork much easier than with iPads, which have small keyboards on the screen.
“For what they spent on an iPad, they could have bought a full functioning laptop for every kid in the system,” Kallos said.
“Instead, we got a bunch of iPads which don’t really create equity when families have laptops and broadband.”
Kallos also questioned the DOE’s $40.5 million payment to IBM to install Sim cards and software in the iPads, saying Apple could have included the services. Apple can remotely configure devices on a systemwide basis, he noted.
The DOE is paying T-Mobile $10 a month to give each student access to unlimited data, when the company would otherwise charge $35 a month, DOE officials said.
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