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‘Repairs Not iPads’ Facebook group moves into the open

Chase Niesner | February 20, 2014

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The Facebook group, “Repairs Not iPads,” whose pictures of deteriorating LAUSD facilities have gone viral, took on a real-world turn yesterday afternoon when the group gathered at Esperanza Elementary for its first press conference.

Matthew Kogan, who anonymously launched the Facebook effort in December, told LA School Report that the event was intended to introduce some of the teachers who have been uploading the photos to the Facebook page. About a dozen parents, teachers and students attended.

“We’re honestly just shocked that the district can use school construction bond money for iPads,” said Kogan, who is also an adult education teacher at the Evans Community Adult School. But Kogan made clear his group isn’t anti-technology. “There’s certainly a lack of skilled workers entering the job force, and there’s a need for technology in the classroom, but it’s not iPads,” he added.

LAUSD spokeswoman Shannon Haber said that the district doesn’t see school site repairs and technology as competing interests, adding that the district appreciates the visibility Kogan’s Facebook campaign has given the issue of school site repair.

But Haber said she’s also noticed some dishonesty among the postings of certain photos. Haber said when she and a school principal sought to investigate one particular photo of a broken toilet, there was no sign of disrepair at the purported location.

Haber said the Facebook group can draw attention to the district’s existing channels for reporting maintenance issues, which include a hotline (213-745-1600), an online service request, and even a smartphone app.

“[Facebook] is a great communication tool and we’ve responded immediately to some of the posts,” she said.

The effort to equip every LAUSD student, teacher and school administrator with an iPad is being funded with school-construction bonds, a program repeatedly criticized on “Repairs not iPads.” The district estimates that its schools need $40 billion in repairs, and yet there’s only about $7 billion remaining of the voter-approved bonds, according to the LA Times.

Kogan cited a bill that would prohibit California school districts from using voter approved construction bonds for non-facility related items as a step in the right direction. The bill, AB 1754, came from Assemblyman Curt Hagman, a Chino Hills Republican and a critic of LAUSD’s use of bond money for the iPad roll-out.

A union activist and chair of the UTLA Adult Education Committee, Kogan described the iPad initiative as one of Superintendent John Deasy‘s “headline grabbing” policies.

“It’s time we stop putting the flashy projects over the bread and butter issues,” he said.

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