Illinois has won $34.8 million in the federal Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant contest, the U.S. Department of Education announced today.

The money is just half what the state originally hoped to win in the first round of the contest, which it lost out on. The second round was less of a competition, and was only open to high scorers from the first round.

Illinois’ second-round application cut some of its goals in comparison with its original bid.

The money will go to improving quality, coordinating efforts, and increasing access to programs – rather than expanding slots. Illinois was one of five runners-up selected to apply, and all were awarded funds.

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