WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Education has announced 16 finalists in the first phase of competition for Race to the Top federal funding to promote school reform.

The finalists are Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Tennessee. Winners will be announced in early April.

Race to the Top is the Obama administration’s $4.35 billion effort to reshape the U.S. educational system to engage and prepare students for success.

Maine sat out of the first round of the competition, but the Pine Tree State plans to apply by June 1 for funding in a second round of the competition, according to Maine Education Commissioner Susan Gendron

“Everyone that applied for Race to the Top is charting a path for education reform in America,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “I salute all of the applicants for their hard work. And I encourage non-finalists to reapply for Phase 2.”