The state was one of five that missed the cut in 2011 and are being invited to a second round this year.
The states are eligible for a share of $133 million in new Race to the Top funding, with up to $35 million to support early learning.
Secretary of State Arnie Duncan says it's a great opportunity for his home state.
"We were very, very impressed with Illinois' application in the first round of the early learning challenge," Duncan said. "We weren't able to fund so many great applications...but we came back, this year's Race to the Top, Illinois was at top of that list."
Last week, Illinois was awarded $43 million in Race to the Top funds to support STEM or science, technology, engineering and math education.