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35 States Plus D.C. Apply for Race to Top, Round 2

With $3.4 billion left in the Race to the Top hopper and states facing dire financial straits, 35 states plus the District of Columbia have thrown their hats into the ring for what may be the last round of the Obama administration's signature education-reform competition.

First-time applicants are Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, and Washington, and will join other big-league competitors who were finalists in round one, such as Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Massachusetts. The number of round-two competitors is lower than in round one, which saw 40 states plus the District of Columbia apply. Of course, round-one winners Delaware and Tennessee didn't apply in this round.

Here's who did not apply by today's 4:30 p.m. deadline for applying in round two: Alaska, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

The reasons for not applying are as diverse as the states themselves. Indiana's efforts broke down amid a bitter feud between State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett and the state teacher's union. Minnesota encountered similar issues. Texas thinks it's already at the top.

Texas is one of four states that chose to entirely sit out the Race to the Top, as they didn't apply in either round of the $4 billion competition. The others are: Alaska, North Dakota, and Vermont.

For round two, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has said there will be 10 to 15 winners after Delaware and Tennessee scooped up $600 million between them to win in the first round in March.

Based on the 500-point scoring system and characteristics of the two states that won the first time, it seems the winners in the second round will have to have buy-in from a significant proportion of their state's school districts and unions, will have made changes to their laws to more closely tie teacher evaluations to student performance, and will have strong charter school laws.

If Congress does not reauthorize Race to the Top after the economic-stimulus program runs its course, as the Obama administration has asked it to do, this could be the last mad dash for a significant sum of discretionary federal money.

Now that the applications are in, the Education Department has said that finalists will be notified the week of July 26, with in-person presentations before the peer reviewers in Washington scheduled for the week of Aug. 9. Winners will be announced at the end of August or early September.

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