Here's who won in the side competition: the reviewers. At least at first reading, the reviewers' comments on Florida's application were serious in comparing the application to the scoring guidelines. I'm sure you can quibble with scores here and there, but I think any sane journal editor might be tempted to kill to have this quality of effort from manuscript referees.
Where state fell short on plan
Rhode Island scored 419 points out of a possible 500. Here’s how the state lost most of those points:
Weak teacher union support combined with failing to clearly show how districts and unions would participate in the reforms. 14 points lost.
Failure to develop an in-depth statewide data system that tracks student test scores and other achievement information over several years. 12 points.
Charter school cap and failure to show how the state would support “other innovative schools.” 8.6 points.
Did not show significant improvement in raising achievement and closing gaps among students. 6.2 points.
Inadequate evidence of the state’s capacity to put in place and sustain proposed plans. 6.2 points.
Lack of a statewide school financing formula and failure to show that R.I. has made education funding a priority. 5.8 points.
That's a pretty good analysis of RI's current reform strategy, and fixing those issues will result in improvements to the plan, not just trying to figure out a way to put a tighter hammerlock on the unions (except maybe they'll push for a complete removal of the charter cap). I particularly liked a line in the analysis that pointed out that RI's strategy for improving the teacher quality was entirely based on "importing teachers." Considering the number of newcomers to the state and outside consultants working on the proposal, that sort of thing isn't surprising. The proposal does little to acknowledge and build on RI's existing reform initiatives, to its detriment.
Also, a lot of these points can't be made up, because they're based on RI's current record -- they won't be able to produce a new data system out of thin air in the next month.