Cross-party Republican spats may take all the energy out of any effort to fix public school finance and high-stakes testing next session.
When lawmakers announced cuts of up to $10 billion from public education last session, parents and teachers rallied at the Capitol under the Save Our Schools banner. They marched in the thousands. They chanted. They talked new candidates and tapping the Rainy Day Fund for spending. They promised change in the House.
Then the late-May primary occurred, and reality actually happened.
Rep. Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, the affable House Public Education Chair, went down in flames in his Montgomery County district. Eissler, who often cast himself in the role of mediator among the various education factions, was blindsided by an attack on Speaker Joe Straus's top lieutenants in the House.
Bruised from last session's brutal Republican-led cuts and battered by last-minute outside attacks, the longtime trustee-turned-six-term House member was no match for an organized last-minute attack. Eissler did, in fact, leave $650,000, unused, in his campaign fund.
A quick last-minute flurry of conservative endorsements did nothing to stop the hemorrhage and Eissler lost to businessman and minister Steve Toth, who said it was "time for Americans to stand in the gap for our children, our liberties and our future." Toth took Eissler by a 57-43 margin in the Republican primary.
Talking with Hair Balls, Eissler didn't answer questions about his war chest. He didn't bother attacking Empower Texans, which is now crowing about his defeat. Instead, he was tormented by questions about his record in the House.
"If I had everything to do over again, I'd do it again..." Eissler said. "I tried to do the right thing."
For those who want a tally of why the legislature will be mired in indecision in June 2013, here is the scorecard of how Austin is right now: down chairs in both the House and the Senate; facing a two-year battle on school finance that won't be resolved by next January; hit by the loss of longtime education finance guru Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, who departed the House after being shunned on the topic last session; and rudderless at the much-downsized Texas Education Agency, where Commissioner Robert Scott put in his resignation for July 2.
It all spells a long session and multiple special sessions next summer.