Q&A about the Iowa School Microsoft Settlement program:
WHICH SCHOOLS ARE ELIGIBLE?
An “eligible school” is a public elementary, middle or high school in Iowa reporting a qualifying free and reduced lunch eligible student count as certified by the Iowa Department of Education. For elementary and middle schools, the percentage of students reported in the free and reduced lunch count must be 23.8% or above. For high schools, the percentage of students reported in the free and reduced lunch count must be 18.9% or above.
HOW CAN THE FUNDS BE USED?
The funds must be used on computer hardware and software which assists a school in the implementation of the Iowa Core Curriculum. The funds must be used to supplement, not replace, technology purchases by a school. Vouchers can be redeemed for thousands of eligible products from numerous companies, not just from Microsoft.
HOW ARE THE FUNDS DISTRIBUTED?
School districts with eligible schools must complete a short application linking the school’s technology purchases and activities with their implementation of the Iowa Core Curriculum. Once approved, districts then submit invoices for hardware and software purchases to the court-approved settlement administrator. If validated, a check is sent. Schools can redeem purchases until they have “used up” their allocated amount. They have until August 16, 2013 to redeem.
HOW MUCH MONEY WILL BE DISTRIBUTED?
More than $60 million will be distributed to the Iowa Department of Education and eligible schools. Eligible schools will receive vouchers ranging in value from $1,000 to $450,000.
WHEN WILL THE FUNDS BE DISTRIBUTED?
Vouchers will be distributed in January 2010. Schools will have until August 16, 2013 to redeem their vouchers.
Additional information about the Iowa School Microsoft Settlement program, including lists of eligible schools, is available here.
Though I am all in favor of distributing the money to schools to help improve technology in the state of Iowa, it is concerning that not all students will have access to the technology as a result of these funds. Governor Culver said “These funds come at a critical time, not only in helping our schools improve access to the latest technology but to use that technology to implement the Iowa Core Curriculum,” said Governor Culver. “As we work to innovate and rethink our approach to education in Iowa, these funds will supplement our efforts to improve student learning.”
If the leaders of the state of Iowa want to see innovative and creative thoughts about changing education, why would the money be limited to certain schools? Why put more money into a system that obviously isn't meeting the needs of all students? For decades, we have done a great job of putting money into the existing structure and hoped for a different result. Are you kidding me? More money isn't the going to help, a better system is the answer. Albert Einstein once said that "Insanity: is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." Giving schools money to buy more technology won't change the way schools do business. However, putting more money into our current model of teaching and learning is how we have always done things, so why change. We must like the results I guess.
Shouldn't the money be given to schools that are being innovative and creative? There are schools in Iowa that are willing to take risks to improve the quality of education our students receive. There are schools that are thinking differently and that have been innovative.
I am all for schools with greater challenges being given an equal or even better opportunity to receive funds. However, when the only criteria for getting the money is the number of students the building has that qualify for free and reduced lunches, we restrict schools, and more importantly deserving students from districts that don't meet that criteria from this money that could potentially help recreate the educational system. Not only is this flawed thinking, it is wrong.
The main criteria for the funding should have been schools that are already thinking differently. It should have included stipulations for doing something innovative. It should have strings attached that clearly stipulate that if you don't do something with the money that is innovative, creative, or better for learning, you have to pay the money back. I guess what I am saying, is the funding should have gone to schools where the leadership of the building/district get that we have a flawed system that requires an overhaul in how we do business. I am afraid that we may have created a funding source for schools to keep doing things the way they always have, but now they will have some neat technology to go along with it.
Leadership is the key to improving our educational system, not money. If we want to see different results, we must start doing things differently. I hope in the future, the powers that be consider rewarding those that have shown innovation and districts that are willing to make the changes necessary to help our kids succeed in today's world, not yesterday's.