10/20/2011 04:20 pm ET Updated Aug 29, 2012

Race To The Top Early Education Challenge Receives Applications From 35 States, D.C. And Puerto Rico

The U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services announced today that 35 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico have submitted applications for the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge.

The Early Learning Challenge, a $500 million federal grant competition, was announced in May as the third part of its RTTT challenge, which provided close to $4 billion in federal education funding last year. This third round aims to encourage improved coordination, clearer learning standards and better access to early learning programs for low-income, high-need infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

States that submitted applications by Wednesday's deadline are competing for grants ranging from $50 million to $100 million -- the maximum amount permitted per state is based on its relative population of low-income young children. This third round is part of a larger $700 million package to continue RTTT, and states that were not awarded funds in previous rounds can still compete for the remaining $200 million.

"I'm thrilled to see so many states taking advantage of this opportunity, and advocacy groups and policy experts have shown tremendous leadership in supporting states’ efforts to coordinate their early learning systems," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement Thursday. "Their collaborative work is helping ensure that all children enter kindergarten with the skills they need to be successful in school and beyond."

Some of those states that didn't win RTTT funding in the first two rounds expressed interest in applying for this third round, and are moving forward in reworking their education systems regardless, Stateline reports.

Of the four states -- California, Florida, Texas and New York -- eligible for the largest category of $100 million in funding, all but Texas submitted applications. Texas' absence from the pool of competitors is in line with Gov. Rick Perry's decision last year not to participate in RTTT.

The applicants are as follows: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Winners will be announced by the end of the year.