Microsoft Corp. has reached a $12.3 million settlement with Montana consumers who accused the computer software giant of violating the state's antitrust and unfair competition laws.
The agreement, disclosed Monday, requires payments be made in the form of vouchers that can be used toward purchases of computers and software. Half of any money remaining after a four-month period for those claims will be offered to the state's poorest schools for hardware, software or training.
Microsoft estimated that 325 Montana schools, with total enrollment of 38,325 students, will be eligible for leftover settlement proceeds.
Linda McCulloch, state superintendent of public instruction, said the benefit to Montana schools is badly needed.
''All our schools are facing daunting budget problems,'' she said. ''This settlement is most welcome and will be put to good use in classrooms across Montana.''
Jennifer Hendricks, one of the Helena attorneys behind the lawsuit, said schools are all but certain to get something from the settlement since it's unlikely all the money will be claimed by consumers.
Montana's schoolchildren won't just be getting free computers, they'll be getting a valuable lesson: If someone has something you want, you should just take it from them by force. I suppose this is easier than actually teaching students about individual rights and capitalism. That would require actual intellectual effort.