Minnesota school districts will share $55 million in vouchers to buy new computers and software, thanks to a court settlement with Microsoft Corp.

“It is a great infusion of money for technology in the schools,” said Amy Rudolph, spokeswomen for the Minnesota Department of Education. “It will be interesting to see what this bump will do to districts — with our changing world and need to keep increasing technology, it will certainly help.”

The Mankato Area School District will receive $458,819.39.

The money is left over from a settlement to a class-action lawsuit in which Minnesota customers and businesses claimed the company was violating antitrust laws by overcharging for its Windows operating system and its Excel and Word programs.

The company had denied overcharging, saying the prices on its products had dropped.

“There’s a reason that they have to give the money back,” Mankato Supt. Ed Waltman said.

But he said he’s still happy to receive it.

Other area districts will receive substantial reimbursements, too. St. Peter will receive $115,831.61 and Waseca will get $115,606.26.

The amount each school gets depends on the concentration of poverty in their school districts.

Some will receive only a few thousand dollars. Minneapolis and St. Paul are in line for more than $6 million each.

“The rebate and refund will be an important part of our technology fund. It will definitely help,” Waltman said. “It’s a very positive piece of news.”

Districts have until 2012 to use the vouchers.

The vouchers will greatly accelerate Mankato school technology when paired with a technology referendum passed last November, said Doug Johnson, director of media and technology for Mankato Area Public Schools.

The newly passed referendum allots $500,000 to technology-related fields each year for seven years straight.

“We might be able to achieve (technology goals) in three or four years instead of five or six,” Johnson said. “This will help us move forward a little bit more rapidly.”

Voucher purchases, however, will be reviewed carefully, he said.

“We’re going to be careful and give thought on where we spend it,” he said.

Vouchers will automatically go to districts and they will be able to shop from a list of 1,500 hardware and software products, said Richard Hagstrom, an attorney with a Minneapolis law firm involved in the case.

Offerings also go beyond Microsoft products, he said.



The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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