The deadline came and went this week for states to apply for a chunk of $500 million in federal grants to improve pre-kindergarten opportunities. Virginia, which could have received up to $60 million, was one of 15 states that did not apply.

As the Virginian-Pilot reported Thursday, Gov. Bob McDonnell chose not to seek the Race to the Top grant on the recommendation of Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia I. Wright, who believed the money would have come with too many expensive strings attached.

The decision not to apply comes at a time when school systems across the state are struggling with tight budgets that haven’t recovered from the punishing recession.

Rob Krupicka, a member of the Alexandria City Council and state education board, had urged McDonnell to apply for the preschool money.

In an July op-ed published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Krupicka called the grant competition “a chance for Virginia to affirm its position as a top state for education while setting a course to an even brighter education future.”

Maryland and the District of Columbia were both among the winners of the 2010 Race to the Top competition, which awarded $3.4 billion. Both have also entered this latest round. Grantees will be announced later this year.