One of the bills needed to carve out a new school district passed the state House on Thursday afternoon but well below the margin needed to pass a crucial, companion measure.
The proposal, Senate Bill 563, won House approval 59-37.
However, backers also need the House to pass a second measure, which is a constitutional amendment that requires a two-thirds majority, or 70 votes.
State Sen. Bodi White, R-Central and chief sponsor of the plan, said backers will likely delay a vote on the ballot measure until next week, and possibly Tuesday, to try to line up support.
The session ends on June 4.
The vote generally broke along party lines, with Republicans behind the proposal and Democrats opposed.
However, while Republicans enjoy an edge in the House – 58 to 45 with two independents – they need Democrat support to reach the 70-vote target.
Backers contend the new district is needed because the East Baton Rouge Parish school system has failed students and parents for years.
The district carries a “D” rating from the state.
The new district would remove 10 schools now in the EBR system and form the Southeast Baton Rouge Community School District.
Opponents said the new district would leave the East Baton Rouge Parish system with an enrollment that is overwhelmingly black and from poor families.
The two-bill plan requires the approval of the Legislature and, if that happens, a majority of voters statewide and in East Baton Rouge Parish on Nov. 6.
Backers said after the vote that they remain optimistic that the amendment can attract at least 70 votes.
The vote means that nine of the House’s 105 members missed the tally.
Opponents said that in light of the vote margins on Thursday, they are equally confident that the package can be defeated.
The new district would extend southeast from the Interstate 10/12 split, south of I-12 and east of I-10 to the parish lines.
The bill that won House approval spells out details of the changes, and would become a part of state law.
It requires a simple majority, or 53 votes.
The two-bill package already won easy approval in the state Senate.