As states compete for more than $4 billion in federal "Race to the Top" stimulus grants, Education Secretary Arne Duncan has made it clear that states willing to embrace charter schools and other favored innovations will get preference. That, in turn, could prompt a rise in the number of virtual charter schools and other charters that open across the country.

Eleven states have said no to charter schools so far, though some of these states operate state-run virtual schools. They soon might pay a penalty for their choice.

The power Duncan wields through his use of the federal Race to the Top...

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