While many market segments are scaling back on technology spending, public school districts in the United States are bucking the technology-spending trend and investing heavily in server technology, according to a new market study from International Data Corp. (IDC).

IDC reports that K-12 school districts will increase server spending to $153 million in the 2001-2002 school year, up 8.5 percent from the previous year. IDC attributes the rise to increased interest in local networking.

Almost half of the nation’s 14,000 school districts plan to purchase at least one new server this school year, with many upgrading entire networks. The study further reveals that more than 90 percent of individual schools now have local-area networks (LANs) in place.

“Although LAN penetration is high, networks, are used most often by school administrators, principals, and superintendents, rather than students and teachers in the classroom,” said Stephen Webber, a research analyst for IDC’s K-College eLearning service. “The opportunity to apply networking technology to the classroom is only just beginning to be explored.”

Wide-area network (WAN) adoption also is strong, penetrating nearly 51 percent of all United States school districts, according to the study. The adoption of district WANs is directly related to the centralization of school and student information. District size also is a factor, with the largest districts in greatest need of the benefits a WAN can offer.

Other key findings of the study include:

* More than 6,000 U.S. school districts plan to purchase servers and other networking hardware in 2001-2002.

* Larger districts plan on buying significantly more servers than smaller ones.

* Twenty-five percent of districts are interested in wireless LAN technologies

* Apple and Dell continue to be installed servers leaders in K-12 education.