Huffpost Chicago

School Budget Crisis: Illinois Loses Much-Needed 'Race To The Top' Funds

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The already grim Illinois public education budget got even bleaker Monday, with the announcement that a desperately-needed infusion of federal cash is not coming.

Illinois did not make the final cut in its application to the Department of Education's "Race to the Top" fund. Delaware and Tennessee were the only two of the 16 finalists to receive funding, according to the Chicago Tribune. Illinois's application came in at fifth place.

The only silver lining in this news is that most of the Race to the Top money has not been allocated yet. Delaware and Tennessee asked for a combined $609 million of the $4.35 billion fund, the Wall Street Journal reports. This means that Illinois could still see funding for its proposal in later rounds of competition.

The Trib report describes the state's efforts to win the grant:

Enticed by the money at a time of dwindling state revenues, Illinois lawmakers doubled the number of charter schools allowed in the state, required that schools test students every year and link teacher and principal pay to students' exam scores. Illinois also joined a national push to adopt tougher learning standards for children at every academic grade.

The state had sought $500 million to help fund these initiatives; many thought that, with former CPS chief Arne Duncan heading the Department of Education, the state was a shoe-in for some cash.

But with the state's budget crisis already causing deep cuts in school districts statewide, and a proposed $1.3 billion decrease in school spending next year, the state's ambitious plans are likely to be reined in, which in turn may hurt its chances for the federal cash.

The next round of Race to the Top grants will be issued in June.