One day later, $44 million cut for public schools on way out

A $44 million cut for public schools by June 30 was removed today from a bill by House Appropriation Committee Chairman Cameron Henry, R-Metairie.

However, the cutback is now aimed at the state Department of Education, which is sure to trigger more controversy.

The reduction is part of House Bill 122, which won House approval at the start of a day of debates on  Thursday to tackle Louisiana’s roughly $900 million shortfall.

The measure, including the  school aid cut, was approved by Henry’s committee on Wednesday 14-9.

The revamped version, with reductions aimed at the education department, cleared the House 98-0.

Officials of the state Department of Education said a $44 million cut, combined with previous mid-year reductions,  would decimate the agency — 85 percent of available dollars.

That includes money for vouchers, the pre-kindergarten program called LA4, pre-K for non-public schools, all testing, department staff and other areas.

Henry said initially the school aid reductions are needed as part  of a wide-ranging bid to trim spending.

His reworked bill would reduce state expenditures by about $100 million in the next four months.

Education leaders denounced the original  bill and said it would damage classroom operations.

Scott Richard, executive director of the Louisiana School Boards Association, said Thursday any such reduction in school aid  would likely trigger a lawsuit.

The Legislature is in a special session until March 9.

The future of a separate, $2.5 million cut in Henry’s bill  for the state Department of Education that officials said would endanger either ACT exams next month or this year’s version of the Common Core tests April 25-29  is unclear.