Florida loses 'race to the top' education funding

ATLANTA The U.S. Department of Education on Monday awarded Delaware and Tennessee $600 million as part of the competitive "Race to the Top" program to help the states improve student performance and transform struggling schools.

The states, selected from 16 finalists, received the grants in the first round of the $4.35 billion federal competition designed to encourage the use of innovative educational programs.

Tennessee will get $500 million, and Delaware will receive $100 million, the department said.

Delaware and Tennessee "have demonstrated the courage, capacity, and commitment to turn their ideas into practices that can improve outcomes for students," Secretary Arne Duncan said in a news release.

The winners beat out: Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Carolina.

Federal officials will collect a second round of applications for the highly selective program in June. The states that were not picked this time can reapply for grants then.

Officials said Georgia and Florida were third and fourth in the rankings for the grants, which means they may have an advantage over other states for the second round of grants. Still, several of the finalists are already vowing to reapply for the money.

"We were honored to be one of only 16 finalists for this highly competitive grant, and we will immediately begin working on our application for the next round of funding," said Deborah A. Gist, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education in Rhode Island.