The motivation appears pretty straight-forward: Schools across the state are struggling with budgets, and it would be prudent for state officials to do everything they can to obtain some of the hundreds of millions of dollars in federal education grants through the Race to the Top competition. But Colorado has already missed out on round one, and now, some aren’t sure whether the second is worth attempting.

As The Denver Post reports, the two big sticking points are that the state’s first-round application didn’t have full union support, which hurt the effort, and not every school district bought in. Both issues would need to be corrected from the feds’ point of view, but the state would receive less money this time around.

That leads Nina Lopez, director of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for the Colorado Department of Education, to a larger question: “Are you expecting us to explain the same plan for less money and, gee, get all the districts to sign on?”

The issue has turned highly political. Although U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has said no one factor affected how states were scored the first time around, state Republicans blame unions for the loss of the funds, turning to an old, controversial theme: reform. Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry (pictured), a Grand Junction Republican, says if the state wants the money, maybe “it is time to reform teacher tenure, which has given too many educators cover to become overly complacent and even negligent on the job” (via the Denver Daily News).

Deborah Fallin, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Education Association, says the state lost many of its points in the area of local government control, a prized method of governance that schools don’t want to give up.