H. Dean Zajic – Democrat for Kansas Senate, District 18

Candidates

(Photo courtesy H. Dean Zajic)

Responses are from the candidates and have not been edited.

Biographical Information:

Dean has supported educators and students for the last eight years as a member of the Special Education and Title Services team at the Kansas State Department of Education. He is a recipient of the Kansas Association of Special Education Administrators’ “Kids First Award” and serves on the Kansas Council for Developmental Disabilities.

He supports early education and the local economy as an officer on the board of directors for TDC Early Learning Centers, a non-profit early-learning organization dedicated to meeting the needs of kids from all backgrounds, aged birth through five years old.

Dean is vice president and president-elect of the National Association of Elementary and Secondary Education Act State Program Administrators (NAESPA), where he works to support educators, and expand education opportunities for historically marginalized students in schools throughout the nation.

He is a director on the board of Association of Educational Federal Finance Administrators (AEFFA), a national organization that works to align strong fiscal oversight with successful educational outcomes for all children, and he serves on the expert review panel Center for IDEA Fiscal Reporting and is a frequent presenter at state and national education conferences.

Dean holds both Bachelors of Political Science, and Master of Liberal Studies degrees from Washburn University.

Personal Information:

Dean lives in Topeka, with his Wife, Anne, and three young, daughters, and two dogs.

Campaign website/Facebook/Social Media:

DeanForKansas.com

What is your response to the Black Lives Matter movement?

I support the Black Lives Matter movement.  We can disagree on whether it was through malice or neglect that we came to have a society that unfairly and consistently hurts black Americans, but we can’t dispute the results.  As early as preschool, black children are disproportionately over-disciplined.  And whether we look at healthcare, education, law enforcement, employment, or any other facet of everyday life, we see results that clearly illustrate a system that only works for some Kansans.  The changes necessary to restructure our police, education, and social systems into something that works for everyone are going to be hard and disruptive.  If they were easy, we would have done it a long time ago.  The only way these changes will occur is through the persistent, visible, and overwhelming show of support that has become synonymous with the Black Lives Matter movement.

What do you think needs to be done to promote social and racial justice?

People are fallible.  There are decades of research into helping individuals unlearn biased behavior, and what the research shows is that it is immensely difficult to remove implicit biases, even when a person truly wants to. We therefore need to focus on changing systems, not people.  Time and again, the evidence has shown that whether we are talking about education, law enforcement, or social services, robust systems that remove opportunities for implicit bias to creep in have the greatest impact on reducing discrimination and improving just outcomes for all people.

Are you in favor of police reform? If so, what should it look like?

We need to fundamentally rethink what role police fill in our society.  This has to begin by considering the wide range of demands we are unfairly placing on the shoulders of police officers and asking if they are always the most appropriate individuals for the job. There are situations that call for armed law enforcement, but from school support, to mental health interventions, to domestic crises, law enforcement has too often been the only response available. This one-size-fits-all approach inevitably leads to unnecessary escalations, misunderstandings, and harm.  We need to expand our toolbox so that the first response to every situation is not to subdue and punish, but rather assist and support.

Did you or do you support business shutdowns to control the spread of the coronavirus?

No one wants to shut down or restrict businesses, but it’s only through decisive leadership that the virus will be brought under control and business and society can begin to resume.  We need to come to terms with that fact, and focus on how to support those impacted businesses and their employees with forgivable loans, subsidies, and other aid so that they can come through the other side.

Would you support another statewide shutdown if coronavirus cases continued to rise? If so, what are the factors that would lead you to that decision?

I don’t think that it’s a binary choice of either a complete statewide shutdown or business as usual.  As of July the virus is spreading unchecked at an accelerated rate, and broader, more restrictive measures must be taken by all Kansans to get the outbreak down to a level that can be monitored and contained.  There has to be enforcement of these measures by local and state officials.  We have to stop counting on people to voluntarily do what’s in their best interest.  Experts and officials have already tried relying on people to voluntarily follow guidance that would contain the virus, and what we got was a dramatic resurgence that threatens to close down business and delay schools.  Widespread, enforced implementation of more moderate measures, including social distancing and masks will allow us to get this disease under control and keep businesses and schools open.

What do you think should be done to help the Kansas economy recover?

First, the pandemic has to be brought under control through consistent enforcement of measures that have been shown to be effective in containing the virus. At the same time, we need to inject fuel into the economy by providing aid and support to working Kansans, and businesses to help them bounce back after this crisis.

Would you cut money for social services if it means lower taxes? Would you favor higher taxes for more social services?

Kansans are good people that put that will always sacrafice to help a neighbor in need. Yet Kansas is underfunding the social services that should provide protection for the most vulnerable members of our community. We must reflect that basic tenet of goodness found in individual Kansans in our government, and restructure the state income tax system so that the those at the very top income level begin to pay their fair share so that we can ensure that no Kansan goes to sleep cold, sick, or hungry.

What should Kansas do to balance its budget? Will you support budget cuts for schools?

Kansas has been over-taxing and under-serving working families for too long.  If we want to continue to grow the economy and create a Kansas that is attractive to new businesses, we must first fulfill our obligations to fully fund schools and social services.  We can do this through a smart transition to a long-term fiscal strategy that reduces one of the most regressive sales taxes in the nation,  implement a new top-tier income tax bracket so that those Kansans that have reaped the most benefit from our state can pay their fair share to ensure this remains a state where each person knows they are cared for and everyone has an equal opportunity to achieve success.

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