Fired up over news that the Toronto District School Board considered spending millions on iPhones for its staff, the Education Minister claimed the plan only got cancelled because they got caught.

“I am absolutely appalled,” Lisa Thompson said at Queen’s Park on Monday. “To have a school board choose to buy the top-of-the-line iPhones for their administration team is absolutely unacceptable in today’s fiscal reality.”

Documents obtained by CTV News Toronto reveal that the board issued a request for proposal in February for 3,255 iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max devices, which can cost up to $1,519 each.

“To streamline its operations the board is standardizing on the iOS platform,” the preview document states, noting that currently 2,900 staff already own an iPhone and 1,165 use Android devices.

But the board cancelled the request for proposal Thursday, “given current budget constraints,” TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird told CTV News Toronto.

The TDSB faced a $67-million shortfall heading into the 2019-2020 school year – including $42 million in funding cuts from the province. The board reduced spending on supplementary teachers in French classes, busing, learning centres, central administration, and outdoor education.

“No waste at school boards?” tweeted Premier Doug Ford in response to the iPhone plan. “They wanted parents to believe they have no money for classrooms, repairs or teachers.”

“This government is desperate, desperate to pin the blame on school boards,” said NDP education critic Marit Stiles. “Anything to avoid taking actual responsibility for the deliberate chaos they are causing in our schools.”

The school board insists it would not have paid full retail cost for the iPhones, saying it could have received a discount on a bulk order.

“The TDSB has been reviewing its RFPs both as a matter of good practice and due to its budget situation,” said chair Robin Pilkey in a statement. “Had the procurement run its course, it would have passed though many checks and balances of approvals.”

Eleven per cent of the TDSB’s 37,000 staff members receive board phones, including principals, vice-principals, central staff, and field staff.

“While the board is no longer seeking to upgrade cell phones at this time, the intent of buying newer technology would be to ensure a longer usable lifespan,” said Bird.

“Moving forward, we would look to include a larger variety of phones at different price points.”