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.