Microsoft Lawsuit Settlement does not Address Question #2 of Basic Needs Referendum

Recently, the district was awarded $3.4 million in vouchers as a result of a class action lawsuit brought against Microsoft for illegal pricing practices. How does this affect Question 2, the $5.7 million technology question for the district’s basic needs referendum next Tuesday, April 6? Unfortunately, the vouchers do not address most of the needs identified in the technology portion of the referendum. However, because of the way the settlement is structured, the district will be able to more effectively budget for future technology replacements.

The vouchers are provided based on district schools’ free and reduced lunch participation in 2005, when the lawsuit was brought forward. The settlement states that the district can only use the vouchers to support schools with high free and reduced lunch participation. This means 15 district buildings do not qualify and cannot use the funds because of their low free and reduced lunch participation. When the funds are used, they need to be accounted for by each building to ensure we are following those guidelines.

Additionally, 50 percent of the money is to be used specifically for software with explicit guidelines for which software the vouchers can be used. The other half can be used for very specifically defined hardware. Because of these very exact definitions, the settlement will not address the district-wide needs brought forward in next Tuesday’s referendum.

How will these funds be used?
The district is developing a plan to best utilize the settlement funds within the restrictions set up by the settlement administrators. Since the funds can be used through 2013, the district is looking at longer-term solutions that fit within the settlement constraints. For example, the district plans to combine settlement with district money to address the replacement of aging network switches and operating system upgrades, which are not part of the referendum. We will also be able to extend current software licenses and upgrade our Windows operating system. Because the district will be able to use the vouchers over the next three years, the district technology budget will be better able to accommodate ongoing replacement issues that need to be addressed year to year.

The district is pleased to receive the settlement, but is concerned that misperception of how these funds can be used will affect the technology portion of the referendum. The basic technology needs identified in the referendum can not be addressed district wide through the use of the settlement vouchers.

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