With $4.35 billion on the line, 40 states and the District of Columbia turned in applications for the first round of the Race to the Top competition on Jan. 19. Some of the other states - the ones that didn't apply - aren't too excited about the strings attached to the federal education grants.

Peer reviewers will now evaluate what each state is doing to improve education, and while they're using a point system, there won't be any specific point cutoffs that winning applicants have to make, U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan said. They also haven't locked themselves into a certain number of states to choose, but they will set a high bar for them to hurdle.

"We want to fund as many great proposals as we can," Duncan said, "and we don't want to fund those that we think are good or have potential, but aren't great yet."

We're In: Choose Us!

To become eligible for the race, a dozen states have amended or maintained their charter school laws, and several states eliminated barriers that prevented teacher performance and student assessment data from being linked, including California.

"When Race to the Top was announced last July, California was immediately counted out of the race - but you should never count California out," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said. "President Obama issued a challenge, and we have responded with strong leadership and bold action to ensure California cannot only apply but be highly competitive in the Race to the Top."

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Tanya Roscorla  |  Managing Editor, CDE

Tanya Roscorla covers ed tech behind the scenes and on the legislative agenda. Likes: Culinary experiments, travel adventures, beautiful landscapes.