In another blow to California’s public education system, the Department of Education announced today that it has not selected the state as a winner in the second round of Race to the Top, the controversial national competition between states for federal education grants. The $4.35 billion will be split among Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia. Had they won, participating California school districts, including Los Angeles Unified and Long Beach Unified, would have received up to $700 million. In order to qualify for competition, the school districts had pledged to embrace controversial reforms such as linking teacher evaluations to standardized test scores and allowing poorly performing schools to be converted into independently run charters. Officials said no one reason precluded a state from winning the funds, but a glaring shortcoming of California’s application was it’s absence of union support, from local teachers unions to the two major state teacher unions. Critics of Race to the Top, including teachers unions, several prominent education experts, and the National Education Association (NEA), have long argued that states like California are too willing to trade desperately needed one-time funding for unproven, aggressive policies. Is losing out on Race to the Top a devastating financial blow or a blessing in disguise?