State officials announced this week they have submitted an application for the second round of federal “Race to the Top” funding for education. Iowa Department of Education spokesperson, Elaine Watkins-Miller, says one change this time around is all eight of the state’s largest school districts have signed on.

Watkins-Miller says that is a positive as it increases the number of students in the state that could be helped by the funding. She says they are now looking at impacting 73-percent of the state’s K-12 population, where the first round application would have only impacted 47-percent. “Race to the Top” is a competitive federal grant program designed to encourage and reward states that are creating the conditions for education innovation and reform.

Watkins-Miller says concerns about how the funds would be used were part of the reason only one of the largest school districts took part in the first round. Watkins-Miller says it was part of getting a better understanding of what districts would be required to do and what they wouldn’t be required to do. Watkins-Miller says they didn’t have to start from scratch with the second round application.

Watkins-Miller says they got a variety of input on the first round application and then got comments from reviewers that helped them know where they needed to strengthen their application in the second round. Iowa is applying for up to $175-million in the second round. Only two states won funding in the first round of applications. An announcement on funding for the second round is expected in September.