Extra cash for schools over the next three years is unlikely after Assembly members voted 37-16 for draft budget plans that were dubbed "bad news" for education.
AMs carried a motion by finance minister Andrew Davies on Tuesday that will see the "Welsh pound stretch further" up to the end of 2011. But the result - the first major test of the LabourPlaid Cymru coalition - has outraged unions and the Welsh Local Government Association.
Crisis talks have been held with education minister Jane Hutt to secure more funding for the chalk-face via local authorities. The WLGA claims it will take an effective below-inflation cut under the proposals that will adversely affect public schools,
Teaching union the NASUWT Cymru has threatened strike action and a boycott of new initiatives if more money is not found. All the unions believe the budget will leave new plans floundering.
The government will now consider any changes and hold a final vote in January.