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Schools get windfall funds

A settlement from a suit against Microsoft will trickle down to district. Exact amount remains unknown.

August 09, 2006|By Ani Amirkhanian

BURBANK - The Burbank Unified School District will have access to technology funds from a settlement between the Microsoft Corp. and consumers and businesses who filed a class-action lawsuit against the software giant.

The California Superior Court ordered that the state's Education Technology K-12 Voucher Program funds be made available as a result of the settlement agreement, officials said.

The California Department of Education on July 26 announced the funds would be made available.

The exact amount of the funding is unknown, but it is estimated to be from $400 million to $600 million statewide, according to the California Department of Education.

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"We are in the initial stages of figuring out which sites will receive the funds," said Rick Vonk, the district's technology services manager. "We are trying to find out, we are checking on the information."

Eligible schools include those in which 40% of the students receive free or reduced-price meals through Title I, a federal funding source for education, Vonk said.

Vonk added that the voucher amount is between $98 to $150 per student for Burbank schools.

At least five Title I schools, including Providencia, Walt Disney, Washington, McKinley and Miller elementary schools are eligible to receive the technology funds.

"We know that we have five elementary schools that qualify," said Sue Boegh, director of educational support services. "It is our understanding that comprehensive high schools that receive students from those feeder schools will also receive funding."

Schools qualifying for the vouchers will be required to spend 50% of the funds on computer hardware and 50% on computer software, equipment and technology infrastructure, Boegh said.

"What we are waiting for is guidance, for the state to identify the basis to which the high schools will be able to receive the amount they can expect," Boegh said. "There is not a clear definition of the amount."

In order to participate in the voucher program, the district must complete an application and submit it to the California Department of Education.

Applications will be issued to districts in mid-September or October, Boegh said.

The case from which the settlement stems, United States vs. Microsoft, was filed in 1998 by the U.S. Department of Justice. The class-action suit reportedly alleged that the Microsoft Corp. abused monopoly power in its handling of operating system and Web browser sales.

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