A hotly-debated plan to set up a new school district in southeast Baton Rouge was killed in the Louisiana House on Friday afternoon.
The vote was 60-35 in favor of the proposal, which was 10 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed, or 70 votes.
The legislation, Senate Bill 299, is a constitutional amendment and part of a two-bill package aimed at moving 10 schools now in the East Baton Rouge Parish school system to a new district.
Backers said the new district is needed because the East Baton Rouge Parish School District has failed students and parents for years.
Opponents said the move was hasty, needed more scrutiny and would leave behind a system dominated by high poverty and financial problems.
“This is still a bad bill,” said state Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge and a former member of the East Baton Rouge Parish school board.
Earlier this week backers won 66 votes for their side, which was four votes short of their target.
However, fewer House members were on hand Friday when the issue came up for the second and final time, which made an already uphill climb even steeper.
The amendment passed the state Senate earlier.
Both chambers approved a companion bill, which would spell out details of the new district in state law.
But state Sen. Bodi White, R-Central and chief sponsor of the plan, said getting 70 votes in the House was always the biggest hurdle in making the new district reality.
The plan required the support of the Legislature, voters statewide and voters in East Baton Rouge Parish to take effect on July 1, 2013.
State Rep. Erich Ponti, R-Baton Rouge and House handler of the ballot measure, said two dozen schools in the East Baton Rouge Parish school system face sweeping changes by state officials because of poor performance.
“Nobody got a voice in that,” Ponti said, urging House members to forward the issue to voters.
But Smith said Ponti’s comments about state involvement in troubled public schools were overblown.
At one point during Ponti’s closing comments Smith said “another lie, another lie” to some of his statements.
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.
State Rep. Hunter Greene, R-Baton Rouge, urged colleges to get behind the plan.
Greene said that, while he has lived in the proposed district for more than 20 years, he has two children in private schools. “There are plenty of people who don’t have that opportunity,” Greene said.
State Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge, pleaded with House members to reject the proposal.
“This is not a good idea, and I urge you to vote no,” James said.