Los Angeles has a problem that any school district in the days of budget austerity would love to have. As part of an anti-trust settlement with Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft, the Los Angeles Unified School District has until April of 2013 to spend approximately $10 million in vouchers that may be used on technological improvements of the district's choice.
Although the state issued a reminder to the LAUSD about the upcoming expiration, according to Examiner.com, the district needed no prompting. The information found on the website of its IT division explains that district officials already have clear ideas about where the money can go.
The website explains that questions raised about the use of funds in a recent Los Angeles Times story on the Microsoft vouchers was a result of a miscommunication. Far from forgetting about the remaining voucher balance, the district has long laid down a specific plan on where the remaining money will go.
All Microsoft Voucher funding has already been reserved for planned expenditures in the LAUSD. Approximately $26.5 million in voucher funds have already been claimed as reimbursements for investments in technology equipment, software, and services for schools. Another $10.5 million–already allocated to technology investments–will be processed for reimbursements by the due dates.
The website also explains the nature of the vouchers, specifying that they are not a "direct funding source," but instead are a reimbursement of expenses borne by the district as a result of Microsoft's anti-competitive behavior. The vouchers are conditioned and may only be spent on technology-related expenses. Because they are reimbursements, the district must first either spend some of its own money, or draw up explicit spending plans, before it can apply to the fund set up to administer the Microsoft Voucher settlement pool for compensation.
What has the District used voucher funds for?
There were two types of vouchers for which the LAUSD qualified. Of the $37 million in vouchers made available, approximately $18.5 could be used for equipment or other general technology purposes, and the other $18.5 million could be used only for software purchases.
The website also explains how the district spent its voucher allotment prior to this year. Vouchers helped fund technology expansion plans in the district after funding from the state was rolled back due to the recession that began in 2008. In particular, things that previously were expensed through the General Fund, like software licenses and routine hardware upgrades, were, for the past several years, paid for by Microsoft Vouchers.
In addition, the money also went to establish favorable long-term software licensing agreements with companies like Microsoft and Adobe.