The New York Times reports that the Department of Education, preparing to dole out hundreds of millions of dollars to winning states in a $4 billion grant competition, has estimated how long it should take each state to prepare its grant proposal: 681 hours.

Not 680, not 700, but 681 hours. "Nice round number--how'd they come up with that one?" said Lee Sensenbrenner, chief of staff to Gov. James E. Doyle of Wisconsin.

The thousands of state officials who are working feverishly to prepare proposals are not only stunned by the precision of the estimate, but many of them also say it...

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