Despite predictions of a lawsuit, the Louisiana Legislature narrowly gave final approval Monday morning to a $3.4 billion spending plan for public school students.
The House approved a conference committee report on the measure, one day after the state Senate did the same.
The Louisiana House vote was 51-49.
House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, ruled that the proposal required a majority of House members in the chamber and voting, not the 53 majority needed for most bills.
Critics said the fact the measure, Senate Concurrent Resolution 99, cleared its final hurdle with less than a majority of the House behind it provides grounds for a legal challenge.
State education leaders have said that, if the Legislature failed to act by 6 p.m. on Monday, they would ask Gov. Bobby Jindal to call a special session on the issue.
The resolution provides basic state aid to public schools for the 2012-13 school year.
It rarely causes deep passions, especially on the last day of the session.
However, this one, for the first time, redirects some public school money for low and middle-income students to attend private and parochial schools.
That expansion of an existing program was hotly debated earlier this year, and the school aid plan pave the way for renewed arguments on the issue on Monday.
Backers call the aid scholarships. Opponents say it is a voucher.
House Democratic Chairman John Bel Edwards of Amite, who led the opposition to the funding plan, said one of the 124 private and parochial schools that have offered to accept students that accept the state aid teaches Islam.
“We should not spend taxpayer dollars for that purpose,” Edwards said.
Opponents said that, while spending per student would be frozen for the fourth consecutive year, public schools in Louisiana have avoided actual spending reductions, which they said has happened in 37 other states.
House Education Committee Chairman Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge and House handler of the resolution, said the issue has gotten extensive debate.
“We have beaten this horse to death,” Carter said, urging House members to support the aid for public schools, which was pushed by Gov. Bobby Jindal’s office and the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
“It’s the same old rhetoric we always hear,” Carter said. “Give us more time, give us more money.”
Carter said officials of the New Orleans area private school criticized by Edwards have now decided not to accept voucher students.
Opponents said earlier that a separate lawsuit is likely on the spending plan because it would use dollars traditionally reserved for public schools for private and parochial schools.
Backers of the plan contend it is legally sound.