DENVER
08/24/2010 12:24 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Colorado Race To The Top Bid Falls Short

Even after public displays of confidence from Colorado's most prominent education figures, the state will not receive funding from the federal Race to the Top education reform program.

On Tuesday, the Department of Education confirmed that $3.4 billion in federal funding will be divided between Washington, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, North Carolina, New York, Ohio and Rhode Island for their efforts to reform their education systems.

The Race to the Top program, which was passed as part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (stimulus act), rewards states for enacting education reforms.

The grants announced Tuesday constitute the second round of Race to the Top funding. Colorado was also shut out in the first round earlier this year.

News of Colorado's failed Race to the Top bid comes after a highly contentious legislative session during which the Democratic party was divided over a bill thought to be the centerpiece of the state's Race to the Top bid.

Senate Bill 191, which reforms Colorado's education system to more closely ties teacher tenure to student performance, was considered one of the boldest reform initiatives in the country when it passed in May.

The bill passed the Democrat-controlled legislature despite staunch opposition from the Colorado Education Association, the state's teachers union.

"Colorado is one of the leaders, if not the leader in the substance of its law," Tim Daly, president of national The New Teacher Project, said in May.

Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, went so far as to say "I don't know how you guys [Colorado] won't win [Race to the Top Funding]. I can't see the scenario."

On Tuesday, education leaders throughout Colorado were incredulous at the results of the competition.

"I'm shocked," Van Schoales, the head of Education Reform Now, told KDVR, "I'm really surprised."

"I'm very disappointed in the U.S. Department of Education that they have a process so slanted toward the East Coast and the East Coast way of thinking," said Lieutenant Governor Barbara O'Brien, who lead Colorado's Race to the Top efforts.

Governor Bill Ritter noted the significant variation in scoring between judges who rated Colorado's application positively and those who gave the state a negative rating.

"That leads me to believe there are some flaws in how objective" the judging was, Ritter said.

The prospect of winning Race to the Top funding was used as an argument against opponents of the bill, who argued that it constituted an unfunded mandate due to the increased costs associated with testing students.

Education News Colorado reports that losing out on federal funding will likely push the timetable for implementing reform back several years.