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36 States, D.C. to Apply for Race to Top Early Ed. Money

Governors in 36 states, along with District of Columbia officials, have told the U.S. Department of Education that they want to compete for $500 million in new Race to the Top money that is designed to spur improvements in early-childhood programs across the country.

The expected applicants are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Now, this doesn't mean governors can't change their minds. They were asked to signal their intent as a courtesy to the department. A governor who isn't on this list could decide to apply in the end, or a governor on the list could decide not to. Applications will be available in late summer, and awards will be made by the end of the year.

But this list provides a gauge of national interest in the Race to the Top brand, and the money that comes with it.

More interesting, at least to me, are the states that did not say they planned to apply: Alaska, California, Florida, Indiana, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Virginia.

Some on the may-not-apply list are not surprising. Alaska, Texas, and North Dakota did not apply for either round of the $4 billion Race to the Top pot last year. Indiana, South Dakota, and Virginia did not apply for the second round. South Carolina, with a new state education chief, doesn't even want a piece of a separate $200 million pot of new money for runners-up from last year's Race to the Top, which essentially is easy money.

It's interesting that big states Florida and California, and to a lesser extent Tennessee, may not compete. But with top awards of only $100 million for this contest, perhaps officials in those states think that's not enough money to justify all the time required to get their applications ready. Plus, Florida and Tennessee won Race to the Top grants last year, so maybe they're raced out. If these states do sit out this competition, that means more money for the remaining states.

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