A plan that would pave the way for a breakaway school district in southeast Baton Rouge cleared its first hurdle on Thursday afternoon.

The proposal, which includes two bills, passed the state Senate Education Committee after a three-hour hearing.

However, an amendment approved 3-2 removed two schools from the proposal.

They are Westminster and Jefferson Terrace elementary schools.

State Sen. Bodi White, R-Central, said the new district is needed to give students and families a chance at better public schools.

Leaders of the East Baton Rouge Parish school system told the panel that the move would seriously damage the district.

Interim Superintendent Carlos Sam, Board President Barbara Freiberg incoming Superintendent Bernard Taylor all urged the committee to reject the proposals, which are Senate Bill 563 and Senate Bill 299.

The plan has to win the support of two thirds of the House and Senate and a majority of voters statewide and in East Baton Rouge Parish to take effect.

The bills next face action in the Senate Finance Committee.

White said his original proposal affected 6,500-6,800 students.

How many would be affected by removing two schools is unclear.

The East Baton Rouge Parish school system has about 43,000 students, with black students making up 81 percent of enrollment.