Florida last week was among 19 finalists competing for more than $3 billion in the second round of federal education funding in the Race to the Top program. Other finalists from the Southeast region are Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

The District of Columbia and 35 states submitted plans for funding comprehensive education reform efforts aimed at instituting rigorous standards for education and teaching, turning around low-performing schools, and building better data systems.

“Peer reviewers identified these 19 finalists as having the boldest plans, but every state that applied will benefit from this process of collaboratively creating a comprehensive education reform agenda,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said.

The finalists travel to Washington next week to present their plans to peer reviewers for final scoring.

Winners and funding awards will be announced in September.

A total of 40 states and the District of Columbia submitted applications earlier this year in the first round of funding. But only two winners were announced in March.

Tennessee received $500 million to implement its comprehensive school reform plans over the next four years. Delaware also won $100 million.

Alabama applied for funding in both rounds of the competition but wasn’t named a finalist in either one.

Gov. Bob Riley said he believed the state didn’t become a finalist for Race to the Top funding because Alabama lawmakers have refused to pass legislation authorizing charter schools and that has placed the state at a competitive disadvantage.

“I believe that unless and until Alabama gives communities the option of having charter schools then we will continue to be shut out,” Riley said.

“Those who continue to fight education reform and defend the status quo are doing nothing but hurting our ability to help teachers and students achieve more,” he added.

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