Hughes, Lookadoo Face Off In House District 5
By ADAM RUSSELL
Education cuts during the previous legislative session fueled a long-time educator and school administrator to challenge the five-term incumbent for Texas House District 5.
Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, is seeking a sixth term in newly redrawn District 5. Mary Lookadoo, a long-time teacher and 20-year school administrator for Mineola ISD, is challenging him.
District 5 now includes northern and southeastern portions of Smith County, including Lindale and Troup. It stretches west of Emory, covering southeastern Lake Tawakoni, all but a northern sliver of Lake Fork and east of Winnsboro before jutting north to encompass Mount Pleasant, Daingerfield and Pittsburg.
Mrs. Lookadoo said she chose to run because the legislature cut public education funding by more than $4 billion and that state leaders are addressing the system incorrectly on many fronts. She said the state has not addressed an equitable funding system that fairly distributes tax dollars to educate students. Standardized testing is another area in need of changes, she said, while mandates by the state should be minimized to give districts options.
"Schools took a beating during the last session," she said. "On every issue, the state needs to look at what will be the end result."
She said the state cut education thin as the statewide system added more than 80,000 students.
Hughes said he and Mrs. Lookadoo agree on education about standardized testing and finding equitable funding for public education, but that raising taxes to put more money into a broken system was not an option during the last session.
The state has experienced an uptick in sales tax revenues, he said, and will likely fare better this session.
"We will still have to make sure we are not missing (unnecessary spending) and prioritize spending, but we should have enough," he said.
Mrs. Lookadoo said she will also look to ensure state employee pensions are not decreased, address transportation infrastructure and watch taxpayer dollars.
Smith County Retired Teachers and School Personnel Association President Wayne Berryman said the retirement is as healthy as it has ever been but that education did take a major hit, with funding cuts translating into fewer teachers.
He said he knew Mrs. Lookadoo well from her time as an administrator and has discussed public education and the retirement fund several times with Hughes.
"Both are very supportive" of retired teachers and education, Berryman said.
Berryman placed much of the blame for the cuts to education on Gov. Rick Perry, who threatened to veto use of the remaining $7 billion Rainy Day fund during the session.
Hughes said immigration, public safety and the budget will be his main focus during the coming session. Hughes is expected to move up the seniority ladder in 2013 because the 150-member House experienced a large turnover before the last session and will likely welcome many freshman members after this election cycle.
Seniority can mean plum committee positions, and Hughes said he would like to be in a position to address top concerns such as the budget, education, illegal immigration and public safety.
Mrs. Lookadoo said her focus will be education, but listed continued support of tort reform, protecting family values and transportation as her top concerns.
"Education is the key to solve all our problems," she said. "If we don't maintain a skilled workforce, companies will look to other states, and the state will suffer."
In 2005, Mrs. Lookadoo was the Region VII Education Service Center's Superintendent of the Year and advanced to one of five finalists for the Texas Association of School Administrators Superintendent of the Year Award.
She has served in leadership positions and as a member for many groups, including the Mineola Economic Development Team, Mineola Parks Board, Mineola Chamber of Commerce, Mineola Civic Center Usage Committee, Board of Directors for Andrews Center, and the Advisory Committee for Teacher Education at Jarvis Christian College, according to her website.