The federal government is gearing up to give out funds again to districts that promise to raise student achievement through its Race to the Top competition, according to a press release the U.S. Department of Education sent out late last week.

This year’s version of the contest, like last year’s, is focusing on districts rather than states, and all together, $120 million is on the table — only a fraction of the $400 million in the pot last year. (The U.S. Department of Education doled out $5 billion to states in 2010, the first year of the competition. New York won $700 million.)

Last year, New York City asked for $40 million to augment and expand its existing education technology programs. It was one of 61 finalists among 500 applicants, but the Department of Education ultimately did not win any funds through the contest, and officials said they would press forward with many of the plans using other funds. 

The city is eligible to apply again this year. But the timing could be tricky: The U.S. Department of Education says it will name the winners by Dec. 31 — Mayor Bloomberg’s last day in office and thus, Chancellor Dennis Walcott’s likely last day of work as well.