Update, 9:15 p.m.:

The Louisiana Senate approved a spending bill Thursday night that would trim a shortfall in state aid for public schools from $44 million to $24 million.

The vote was 38-1.

The measure, House Bill 69, now faces a vote in the state House.

The House took up the bill about 10:30 p.m.

Approval was expected.

The legislation provides $263 million in additional dollars for a wide range of state services.

It would trim a shortfall in state aid for vouchers from $6 million to $2 million compared to current spending.

Earlier:

On the final day of the session, public schools face a $44 million shortfall unless a last-minute injection of dollars win final approval before adjournment on Thursday.

Public school backers earlier this week applauded when the Louisiana House approved legislation that would trim that shortfall to $16 million, and possibly less.

But the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday made more changes in spending legislation — House Bill 69 — that would leave the shortfall at about $38 million.

The full Senate is set to vote on the measure Thursday.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte told the Senate about 3:45 p.m. that a proposed spending plan would be circulated in the Senate and House.

Under that proposal, a $44 million shortfall for public schools would be trimmed to $24 million.

In addition, a $6 million shortfall in state aid for vouchers would be cut to $3 million below current spending.

A revised plan early Thursday evening would trim the voucher gap to $2 million, a reflection of ongoing negotiations.

About 7,100 students get vouchers, mostly minorities and mostly in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

The spending plan was being negotiated behind closed doors at 6:30 p.m.

The special session, the second of the year, has to end by midnight Thursday.

The Legislature has been meeting since Feb. 14, including two special sessions and the 2016 regular session.

The bid to move dollars in state aid for public schools to other areas, including higher education, took place in LaFleur’s panel.

The scramble is taking place amid a shortfall of at least $600 million, and possibly $800 million, starting July 1.

The battle over public school aid pits those who contend it should be a top state priority against lawmakers who say that, unlike higher education and other areas, public school aid has not been cut in recent years.

Hollis Milton, until recently president of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents, said last month a $44 million reduction from current spending would mean layoffs in some school districts, pay cuts for some teachers and other reductions.

The $44 million would be added to the $3.7 billion Minimum Foundation Program, the state’s key source of revenue for public schools and about 720,000 students.

Technically, the $44 million added last year at the urging of then state Rep. John Bel Edwards was outside the MFP.

However, the money was intended and spent like other dollars that go through the formula.

The shortfall would be the first of its kind in decades.

Check back later with The Advocate for more details.

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