Sunday, October 07, 2012


BY hOWARD bLUME | la tIMES/la nOW |

School districts warned about millions in expiring technology fundsImage: Screenshot of Education Technology K-12 Voucher Program website.

October 7, 2012 |  1:05 pm  ::  State officials have urged school districts and charter schools to use $66 million in vouchers to buy technology before they expire next year.

The warning, issued Friday, pertains to funding remaining from an antitrust settlement with the Microsoft Corp. One set of vouchers must be redeemed by April; the other has a deadline in September.

Most of the available dollars, $212 million, have been claimed, but substantial resources remain, including more than $10 million for the Los Angeles Unified School District, according to the state’s most recent update on unused funds. L.A. Unified’s total share of the settlement was about $37 million.

The money does not have to purchase Microsoft products, but school districts have to use their own dollars up front — a potential challenge during this period of tight budgets — then apply for reimbursement.

Some districts have exhausted their share. Compton Unified has spent all of its $1.7 million and Glendale Unified its entire $951,000.

Many independently managed charter schools also were entitled to a portion. The Gold Rush Charter School in Sonora has $1,185 unclaimed. Closer by, Gabriella Charter School in Echo Park, which specializes in dance training for elementary school students, has redeemed about $4,000 of its $6,500 allotment.

In L.A. Unified, Roosevelt High in Boyle Heights has received the most funding from the vouchers, about $281,000, according to state records. Still, the aging campus has struggled with technology infrastructure, according to school management.

The vouchers originate from a $1.1-billion antitrust settlement approved in 2004. Two-thirds of the funds unclaimed by California businesses and consumers were designated for California public schools, especially for those that serve substantial numbers of low-income students.

L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy has stated that he wants a tablet computer — such as the iPad — in the hands of every student in the nation’s second-largest school system.

Tablet computers are eligible for purchase with the Microsoft vouchers. Deasy has suggested that school construction bonds also could be used as needed to buy tablets. Some critics have questioned whether bond funds can be used legally for that purpose.

Deasy is expected to give a presentation on technology issues at Tuesday’s board meeting.

All school districts face the prospect of having to conduct state standardized tests on computers starting in the 2014-15 school year. Many schools systems are far from prepared and have expressed concerns about the cost of getting ready.

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