Illinois Among 19 Finalists for Federal School Money

State to make final pitch for $400 million in August

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    BRISTOL, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 24: School pupils at the Bridge Learning Campus work together in a classroom at the school on February 24, 2010 in Bristol, England. The 40million GBP campus in Hartcliffe, Bristol, was constructed as part of the Government's Building Schools for the Future programme and opened in January 2009. It now offers over 800 pupils a life long provision of learning from nursery, reception and primary to secondary and post-16 education. As the UK gears up for one of the most hotly contested general elections in recent history it is expected that that the economy, immigration, the NHS and education are likely to form the basis of many of the debates. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

    Illinois school officials believe they have a better chance to tap into hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government than they did in the first round of grants in March.

    State schools Superintendent Christopher Koch said Tuesday that the state has worked harder to get cooperation from local school districts and teachers' unions since finishing fifth when two grants were awarded in the first round.

    Illinois is now one of 19 finalists seeking a cut of the approximately $3.4 billion in "Race to the Top'' grants. The state asked for $400 million.

    Koch said Illinois will emphasize its plans to better prepare school leaders for reform when officials visit Washington in August to make their pitch for a grant.

    He said that's important because Illinois has 869 school districts.

    The finalists are: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New
    Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina and the District of Columbia.