From Texas to New Jersey, schools are auctioning off old computer equipment to make room for better and faster systems. Participating educators say it’s a great way to put basic, cheap computers in the hands of kids and community members–and generate a bit of money for new equipment.

In June, the 55,000-student Arlington (Texas) Independent School District raised $24,000 selling off older computers to families who couldn’t afford new models, said auction coordinators.

In the past, Arlington has sent its surplus equipment to another community, Rockwall, to be auctioned off by a private company. But district officials were persuaded to sell the computers locally by the Rev. Sylvester Key, a community activist and pastor of Grace United Methodist Church.

Community benefit

By reselling the 386s and 486s to local families, said Key, the school “really could help facilitate the learning process. Most teachers have a presupposition when they give out assignments that families have computers at home.”

Most of the buyers, according to auction coordinators, were parents who couldn’t afford expensive new systems for their households. A 386 or 486 that could run Windows 3.1 and allow internet access typically went for around $100, according to Key.

Most of the computers are surplus because of the district’s policy of replacing computer hardware at least every eight years. Auctioneer Lutes said many schools are opting to replace systems even sooner.

Auctioneer Tommy Lutes, who has been providing auctioning services to local school districts for decades, said a school district similar to Arlington normally can bring in around $20,000 for a computer auction. Arlington did much better than the $15,000 he was anticipating, he said. Another area system, Hurst-Euless-Bedford Independent School District, raised nearly $40,000 with its recent auction.

Do-it-yourself

Although using the services of a private auction house might cost you, it also might be well worth the expense, said Alan McCafferty, supervisor of educational technology for the 11,000-student Brick Township School District in Ocean County, N.J. In Brick, school officials aren’t hiring an auctioneer. Instead, they’re taking written bids and handling the equipment transfers themselves.

The district is getting rid of 2,500 outdated IBM “EduQuest” computers purchased on a five-year lease-to-buy plan that ended this year. Because the line item was already built into the budget, said McCafferty, school officials decided to continue leasing upgraded computers from the company.

Brick is running its own “closed bid” auction. District officials recently placed a request in the local newspaper inviting written bids from interested citizens. Later, the bids will be processed and made public. Buyers will then have one more chance to offer final bids on the equipment, McCafferty said.

But because the “EduQuest” computers are limited in how much they can be upgraded, McCafferty said, Brick educators don’t anticipate making a profit from the auction. But that’s all right, according to McCafferty, because the new technology is less expensive to lease than was the old equipment. As a result, the district actually will be saving money on its renewed leasing plan.

NationalAuctioneers Association
http://www.auctioneers.org/

NAA searchable member database
http://www.auctioneers.org/naalist.htm

Arlington Independent School District
http://www.arlington.k12.tx.us/

Hurst-Euless-Bedford Independent School District
http://www.heb.isd.tenet.edu/