The state got word Thursday afternoon that it would not be one of the states awarded $49.99 million in Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge funding. It’s the third time the state missed out on the funding from the federal ‘Race to the Top’ program and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said he was disappointed.

The funds would have helped strengthen ongoing state initiatives in early learning, and to establish a comprehensive, integrated early childhood education and care system focused on high-need children from birth to age five. Winning the funding also would have boosted spirits as the legislature heads into a session where they will focus on education.

“High-quality education for all of Connecticut’s children is a top priority for my administration, and we should be pleased with the strong application that we submitted; it will serve as a roadmap as we move forward on education reform,” Malloy in a statement. “However, we were aware going in that we were at a disadvantage—a lack of investment over the past decade meant that we did not have the infrastructure in place, or have a well-developed or coordinated early learning system. That will change. This federal funding would have accelerated our efforts, but we are determined to move forward to improve early learning in Connecticut and keep our commitment that all of Connecticut’s students receive a high-quality education.”

The news also disappointed early childhood advocates who were pleased with the application.

“While it is disappointing that Connecticut was not chosen to receive a $50 million Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge grant, Connecticut has been moving in the right direction to improve outcomes for our youngest children. The Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance is confident that the state will pursue the roadmap developed in Connecticut’s bold application,” Maggie Adair, executive director of the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance, said in a statement Thursday.

Malloy has already pledged to expand preschool slots by 1,000, signed an executive order creating an Early Childhood Office, and approved legislation that improves coordination of care amongst early childhood care providers.

“Race to the Top funding would have helped accelerate some of the initiatives that were put forth in the application, but because of the vision and understanding of the importance of early childhood by our state leaders, especially Governor Malloy, there is great promise to take the steps necessary to ensure all children enter school ready to learn and succeed,” Adair said.

More than two years ago Connecticut failed to win the “Race To The Top” grant in the first round and after passing legislation to make its application more robust in the second round it missed the mark again. There were 35 states in the running for the Early Learning Challenge funding and the winners will be announced Friday morning.