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Former House Education Chairman Lobbying for Pearson

Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

Former House Public Education Chairman RobEissler has taken on publishing and testing giant Pearson as a client, according to recent Ethics Commission filings.

The Republican from The Woodlands, who lost his seat in the 2012 Republican primary, is now an Austin lobbyist whose clients include the Harris County Department of Education and the Barbers Hill Independent School District.

Pearson's $468 million, five-year contract to administer the state's new standardized exams has proved controversial amid a growing backlash against high-stakes testing.

"Part of my job is education, and I think they are the No. 1 education company in the world. To focus on their testing seems to be a hot-button issue now, but they are also a publisher," said Eissler, who added that he thought the company had done a "very professional job" fulfilling its responsibilities to the state.

Momentum to reform the student assessment system has swept the Legislature as leaders in education policy in both chambers have filed legislation that would significantly reduce student testing requirements. Budget writers in the House pointedly eliminated spending for testing in their initial budget, and Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams took tough questions from a panel of senators on the topic in a recent hearing.

Eissler himself carried a bill last session that would have enacted many of the changes lawmakers currently seek, but it did not get past the Senate, where it was opposed by then-Education Chairwoman Florence Shapiro, R-Plano. At the time, there was a perception that his legislation targeted Pearson because it eliminated some of the more strenuous state testing requirements.

"Many thought, I think erroneously, that I was against testing, but I was really trying to save it," he said.

Morgan Smith was an editorial intern and columnist at Slate in Washington, D.C., before moving to Austin to enter law school at the University of Texas in 2008. (She has put her degree on hold to join the Tribune's staff.) A native of San Antonio, she has a bachelor's degree in English from Wellesley College.
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