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California is the First on the First Round

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So California is the big winner in the 50-state-sweepstakes of who is first to get the initial round of state fiscal stabilization money.

The Golden State's Prize: Nearly $4 billion in stimulus money for schools.

Actually, there isn't much of a contest here. States have already gotten a portion of the Title I and special education money they're slated to receive under the economic stimulus package. And although the process of applying for state stabilization money was a little trickier, the Department of Education promised a quick turnaround on the first batch of money.

California was quickly followed by Illinois, which got $1.4 billion, and South Dakota, which got $85.4 million.

The funding is meant to help stave off layoffs and programmatic cuts, as well as make progress on key reforms, including improving teacher quality and distribution, developing top-notch data systems, boosting standards, and revamping assessments. States will have to provide more detail to tap their second round of stabilization funding, due out later this year.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has said he'll be looking to see how far states get on those reforms before deciding who is eligible for grants under the $4.35 billion Race to the Top fund, which is supposed to go to the best of the best.

But it's hard to say just how much money California will have left to reshape its K-12 system. Four billion dollars sounds like a lot ... but, actually, district officials determined that it isn't even enough to save thousands of teachers' jobs in Los Angeles, although it did spare many.

Do you think it's realistic to expect that states in super-dire economic circumstances (California, Florida, Nevada) are going to have the resources to change much of anything?

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