educators craft Microsoft deal
Judge says settlement not enough; all waiting
to see if company ups its offer or goes to court
was the most money Glen Bull had ever been asked to consider.
Half-a-billion dollars. His face lit up as he counted out five
followed by eight zeros. But the judge said it wasnt enough.
and Joe Garofalo, co-directors of the Curry
Schools Center for Technology and Teacher Education,
rewrote the proposed settlement of a civil suit against software
company Microsoft, accused of overcharging customers. The settlement
called for Microsoft, instead of reimbursing overcharged customers,
to contribute money, software and technology to schools. Bull
and Garofalo reviewed, refigured and redrafted the original agreement
in an effort to make it acceptable to all parties as well as effective
and beneficial for schools.
core of the plan was the eLearning Foundation, funded but
not controlled by Microsoft, that would funnel money and
technology into the nations poorest schools.
U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz rejected the agreement,
saying that there was not enough money in it to benefit schools.
In quashing the deal, designed to derail about 100 class-action
suits against Microsoft alleging over-charges, Motz also worried
that free software and reduced price computers would give Microsoft
an unfair competitive advantage in the educational market.
sides are waiting for Microsoft to decide whether to up its offer
or go to trial.
judge said the concept was viable, he just felt it needed more
money, Bull said.
Microsoft offers more money, the settlement deal could be back
on its feet. Even if ultimately rejected, though, Bull said some
foundations are interested in the eLearning concept and may fund
it at a lower level.
had nothing to do with the level of funding and the legal issues,
Garofalo said. We were looking for things to change to make
the settlement good for the schools, based on our expertise and
a variety of feedback.
and Garofalo, whose center is devoted to incorporating technology
into schools, are considered experts in the field. Bull was instrumental
in creating the statewide Virginia Public Education Network which
connects Virginia schools to the Internet, a program later copied
in Texas. The professors recently convened a conference of 17
educational leaders focused on integrating technology into teaching.
The center, created in the mid-1990s at the Curry School, also
seeks to prepare the next generation of technology leaders and
shape technology policy.
pair suggested the eLearning Foundation be funded with $500 million
in cash to work with 1,600 disadvantaged schools in the country.
Microsoft said it also will contribute $1.1 billion in software,
hardware and in-kind service, though Bull and Garofalo said they
only focus on the cash part, since they believe the dollar figures
on the software and hardware portions are inflated. They suggested
more options for the hardware and software, including items such
as digital microscopes, and more technical support.
said they were used to dealing with people who thought their visions
were too grand. Now were being told its not
on the settlement plan was a Herculean effort, with Bull putting
in 10- to 15-hour days. Garofalo put in less time, but also juggled
other projects on which the center was working.
last two weeks were hectic, said Garofalo the day after
documents were submitted just in time to meet one of the frequently
shifting deadlines. With every change we had to run the
numbers again and structure the options differently.
Zahrl Schoeny, an associate professor of education, and Chris
ONeal, director of the Virginia Initiative for Teaching
and Leadership, helped Bull and Garofalo with background research.
were times working on the settlement became surrealistic. The
duo went to the federal courthouse in Baltimore for a hearing
with about 200 lawyers.
sat in every available seat, including the jury box. One attorney
from Tennessee had an order from a Tennessee judge to stop the
proceedings, but Motz called the Tennessee judge on the telephone
from the bench and worked out the details with him. The Tennessee
lawyer slunk up to the balcony and stayed there the rest of the
day. About 8 p.m., the judge excused himself from a heated bench
conference to wave goodbye as the Tennessee attorney was leaving
and wish him a happy trip.
all that going on, he kept one eye on that guy all day,
They were also unimpressed with economists involved in the case,
one of whom made an $8 billion error in his calculations, and
another who estimated the value of a Microsoft education package
at $330 million, when the company had only sold $80 million of
that package the previous year.
is also opposition saying the settlement does not punish Microsoft
They want to tie up Microsoft in court for 10 years,
Bull said. I am amazed at the depth of animosity toward