More than 1,000 schools in the state are learning today that they’re eligible to receive a portion of the $60 million made available by a class-action lawsuit settlement with Microsoft. Iowa Department of Education Director Judy Jeffrey says about 75% of Iowa’s schools will receive vouchers worth anywhere between $1,000 to $450,000.
“At a time when we have tremendous economic challenges, to see this amount of money coming to a lot of our schools is just unbelievable,” Jeffrey said. The money is part of a nearly $180 million settlement in a class action suit alleging that Microsoft overcharged Iowa consumers and businesses for certain products.
Individuals, businesses and governments received about 57-million dollars from the settlement. Jeffrey says she formed a “think tank” to help decide which schools should receive the money, how much they should receive and how the money could be spent. “The schools were selected by the percentage of children who are on free and reduced hot lunch,” Jeffrey said. “(Members of the think tank) were very interested in reducing the digital divide between our families who are not as economically well off as other families and those families tend to be concentrated in many of our schools.”
The vouchers can be used on computer hardware and software available from numerous companies, not just Microsoft. Jeffrey says school administrators can only purchase items that are part of a pre-approved list of products that qualify for reimbursement. Jeffrey made today’s announcement at Des Moines’ Capitol View Elementary School, which is eligible to receive $100,000 from the settlement.
Capitol View Principal Marcia Johnson says her teachers will be getting new computers. “The need is very desperate for new computers,” Johnson said. “Our old computers are probably five or six years old, I believe, and are very slow.” School districts with eligible schools must complete an application to participate in the program. Once approved, the districts then submit invoices for their purchases and are reimbursed. The schools have until August 16, 2013 to redeem the vouchers.