Most of Microsoft settlement for Calif. school technology untouched

Two years ago, California public schools received an unexpected gift: a grant of $250 million for new computers, software, and training. The windfall was part of a $1.1 billion settlement of a class-action lawsuit against Microsoft that alleged the company had plotted to monopolize a portion of the computer industry. But most of the money–nearly $200 million–remains untouched, reports the Los Angeles Times. "That’s troubling to us," said Richard Grossman, a partner with Townsend and Townsend and Crew in San Francisco and co-lead attorney for the plaintiffs. Grossman said the state’s schools will probably receive even more money, once a final piece of the lawsuit is settled. Hilary McLean, a spokeswoman with the California Department of Education, which is overseeing the distribution of the grants, said school districts have said they’re waiting to see how much more they’re going to get before deciding how to spend it. That explanation wasn’t good enough for Susan Kovinsky, a stay-at-home mom in the San Fernando Valley who volunteers at her children’s schools. Kovinsky said she was impressed with the iMac computers in her daughter’s classroom until she learned that many of them weren’t working. The computers at her son’s school are outdated, and the technology budget is so tight that there’s no money to buy Microsoft Word and Excel software. "I don’t know how they can sit on it in this economy," she said of the Microsoft settlement money. "I want it to start now." But the poor economy is another reason much of the money remains unspent. Officials say it’s a problem because school districts must use their own money to buy products, then submit invoices for reimbursement, which can take 30 to 60 days. Tony Tortorici, chief information officer for the Los Angeles Unified School District, said he brought up the Microsoft vouchers during budget deliberations with district Supt. David L. Brewer and his cabinet last spring. "The guidance we got is: Keep this on the back burner right now," Tortorici said. "Certainly if we were in a different kind of budget environment, it would be faster…"

Click here for the full story