Bryant, who was appointed by Gov. Sonny Perdue in June to fill the remaining six months of Kathy Cox's term, had planned to run as an independent in November. But the DeKalb County attorney had to collect more than 44,000 signatures in just a few weeks to qualify and was only able to gather 36,000 by Tuesday's deadline.
"We knew it was a long shot going in but felt it was important nonetheless," said campaign manager Brad Alexander.
Alexander said the clock simply ran out on the signature effort, which was conducted with mostly volunteers and a few paid staffers.
Perdue had put his support behind Bryant, but the weight of the governor's office wasn't enough to overcome the odds of collecting enough signatures in such a small time period. Perdue's spokesman Bert Brantley did not immediately return a call for comment.
Bryant said that despite falling short of his goal, he was proud of his campaign and the support it received. He said he can now focus on leading the state's education department without worrying about campaigning for office.
"It will allow me to not worry about the day-to-day grind of a campaign and allow me to, hopefully in a more objective fashion, look at how we can prepare for a smooth and seamless transition to whoever occupies the chair in January," he said in a phone interview with The Associated Press.
Cox left office June 30 to run a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit. The announcement of her exit came just weeks after the deadline to qualify for the state's July 20 primary.
Five candidates - two Republicans and three Democrats - are running for the schools job. The most recognizable name in the race is Democratic candidate Joe Martin, a longtime Atlanta school board member who has run for the office previously.
"Brad Bryant will now be able to concentrate on the important work of interim state school superintendent over the next six months," Martin said in a statement. "It is unfortunate that he was asked to be part of an effort to continue the influence of the outgoing governor, but we can now move on. Georgia needs a new direction in education."
The Republican candidates are John Barge, a Bartow County schools administrator from Rome, and educator Richard Woods, an Irwin County schools administrator from Tifton. The other Democrats are retired Georgia State University administrator Beth Farokhi of Marietta and Gwinnett County high school teacher Brian Westlake of Decatur.