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Georgia will have about $400 million to invest in education reform as a winner of President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top competition.

Nine states and the District of Columbia were chosen, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Education told The Atlanta Journal Constitution around noon Tuesday.

In addition to Georgia, the states are Florida, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Rhode Island, the spokesperson said.

An official announcement is expected at 1 p.m. by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Georgia officials were still awaiting the official news, but had been optimistic in recent weeks because of the state’s third-place finish in Round 1 of the competition.

Race to the Top has sparked a wave of reforms across the country, with states passing new teacher accountability policies and lifting caps on charter schools to boost their chances of winning. The aim of the historic program is to reward ambitious changes to improve schools and close the achievement gap.

News of Georgia’s win moved quickly in education circles.

“This is very exciting news for Georgia and for our public education system,” said Steve Dolinger, head of the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education. “We congratulate and offer our thanks to the state leaders who led our Race to the Top application process.”

Dolinger said: “With this money come a great opportunity and a huge challenge for our educational leaders. They must use every dollar wisely and stay focused on getting the most from this investment for the future of our young people. This award should be seen as a vote of confidence and an energizer to continue our move forward. It’s time to get to work.”

Gov. Sonny Perdue celebrated the state’s selection.

“While this has seemed more like a marathon at times, now the real race begins,” he said. “This is truly a unique opportunity to implement a Georgia-created plan that will accelerate our work in improving student achievement.”

Two weeks ago, a team of five Georgia education professionals were in Washington to present Georgia’s application to a five-person panel of evaluators. State Board of Education Chair Wanda Barrs, State Superintendent of Schools Brad Bryant, Gwinnett County Public Schools Superintendent Alvin Wilbanks, Perdue’s Director of Policy Erin Hames and Governor’s Office of Student Achievement Executive Director Kathleen Mathers made up the Georgia team.

Read the full story here.

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