WASHINGTON (AP) - The Associated Press has learned that nine states will share $500 million in grant money to improve their early childhood programs.

An administration official says the winners to be announced Friday at the White House are California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the winners had not been announced.

The competition is part of the Obama administration's cornerstone education initiative called "Race to the Top." It has states competing for federal education dollars in exchange for changes it favors. Last year, it handed out $4 billion in such grants focused on K-12 education.

The goal of the early learning competition was to get more children from birth to age 5 ready for kindergarten.

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