"The good news is that D.C. won the big grant called Race to the Top," Jennie Niles, head of E.L. Haynes Charter School, told CBS News.
The reform proposal she helped author had garnered her city $75 million. That's one tenth of D.C.'s entire annual public school budget.
Niles thinks students at Haynes Charter School will feel the effects of the money immediately.
To compete in the Race to the Top, states were required to adopt rigorous reading and math standards.
Thirty-five of them, plus the District of Columbia took on the challenge, and 19 of them with ambitious plans for reform made it to the finals. Today the Administration announced the winners. Nine states - plus D.C.
"We're rewarding states that are willing to take bold new steps to change the way we educate our children," said Vice President Joe Biden.
The rewards range from $75 million to $ 700 million per state - a big boost at a time when school budgets are strapped.
The winning states must use the funds to turn around low performing schools - recruit and reward top teachers - and track student performance.
"We already have a team that's ready to implement what we put in that proposal," said Niles. "And so we're ready to hit the ground running."
But like every race, this one had losers as well as winners. Minority groups like the NAACP worry that the states that didn't make the grade are the ones that need the money most.
"The premise that Race to the Top program is going to allow our country to race to the top is flawed," said Benjamin Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP. "It's too little change and it's too few dollars."
The losing states might get another shot next year if the education secretary can add $1 billion to his budget. But that's still nowhere near the $4 billion in stimulus funds he had at his disposal.