Louisiana is among the 41 applicants for the “Race to the Top” federal education grant. Funds available for the year 2011 total $4.35 billion. Applications to enter Phase I of the national competition were due yesterday, and winners passing to Phase II will be announced in April 2010.

Started last July, the R2T program encourages states to advance reforms that will help improve education in public schools. In order to take part in the competition, states applying for the federal grant are required to file an application with a proposed budget.

The Department of Education estimated a budget for the state of Louisiana ranging from $60 million to $175 million, this being just an indicative estimate based on government statistics. The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education hopes for Louisiana to receive a grant of $150-300 million.

President Obama mentioned Louisiana among the leading states effectively improving education. Obama announced an increase of $1.35 billion funds in the FY 2011 budget, allowing more applicants to compete and apply for the grant. Next year’s competition will be extended to local school districts.