Question 1: Since the college experience has changed, what can the State do to lower college costs during the pandemic and in the future? And what can the State do to help defer, forgive or pay for current student loan debt during the pandemic?
I think we all can agree that college costs too much and puts too many students in lifetime debt. There are a couple of things we can do as a state to immediately bring down the costs.
We need to improve the partnership between K-12 and higher education that allows high school students to take college credits when they have finished at a high school equivalent for a subject. They can go to college while still finishing up their high school at a reduced rate as we do in technical college.
If you finished your math requirements in high school, you should be able to go to college and get additional credits in math while you finish your government in high school.
We have to improve the partnership between the employer and the educator to ensure we’re teaching the right skills, and making sure kids are ready to go to work almost immediately after graduating.
And finally the state has to make a commitment in investment. The amount of money the state has invested in college students is almost half as much as it was just 20 years ago. That is a long-term disaster for Kansas if we don’t invest in our future through kids in high school and college.
Question 2: Last session a big issue pushed by legislators was a Pro-Life amendment to the Kansas Constitution, which narrowly failed. Leadership has indicated it will again be a high priority. Do you agree or disagree with the Value Them Both Amendment and how will you vote?
Abortion is the most emotional issue that we address in Topeka. I firmly believe that these decisions need to be made by women and their doctor. Politicians shouldn’t be in the room or in the middle of that conversation. I voted against the amendment because it was so extreme and didn’t take into consideration situations where the woman was raped, the victim of incest, or when the mother’s life was at risk.
I do support things like parental consent and ensuring that clinics meet health standards so that they’re safe. Those kinds of conversations we c an have. But I fundamentally believe the decision comes down between a woman and her doctor and politicians have no role – or a limited role.
Question 3: How do you feel the State has done funding and dealing with the COVID-19 issue and what do you think could change and improve as we move forward?
On the funding side, the state’s done a great job trying to provide resources to businesses that were shut down. We expanded the number of weeks for unemployment. We did several things that I was very happy we were
Unfortunately, as the crisis continued, it deteriorated to a “gotcha” between some of the legislative leaders and the governor. So much, that when the Speaker of the House contracted COVID he didn’t tell anybody as he went to meetings. That kind of lack of trust was really problematic, and we have to get rid of that if we’re going to take the steps necessary to rebuild our economy even better than it was before COVID. We need to respect the people who have to go to work every day in those classrooms or on those factory floors.
The biggest challenge coming up is to rebuild the trust between the various factions in the legislature so that we can take concrete steps like we did in the beginning.
Question 4: What makes you the best candidate for the job and what do you offer over your opponent?
I think my experience – I’ve had the privilege of serving as Assistant District Attorney and prosecuting cases for years here in Sedgwick County. I served on the city council in Wichita, I’ve been on the school board. That gives me a feel for how our county works – what doesn’t work, what does work. And I’ve also been in the legislature and know how to make it work for us.
The biggest difference between my opponent and myself is judgment. He voted for the tax experiment that cut a billion dollars out of our budget and voted for the largest cut to public schools in the history of our state. He voted against repeal even after years of data showed that it was failing. And then, after we repealed it and rebuilt the Kansas economy, he voted for another Brownback tax cut.
I’ve always been a strong supporter of schools and been part of the coalition that put funding together each time we’ve had to deal with court cases. I’ve been a longtime opponent of cuts to schools.
Medicaid expansion has been a dream and a passion of mine for six years. With 150,000 people in Kansas getting healthcare, I like the economic vitality and stimulus that that kind of money would do for our state.
We have to rebuild our economy even stronger than it was before COVID while respecting the people who have to go work in those classrooms and factory floors. We have to rebuild our job infrastructure after the devastation not only of COVID – remember our community was hit by the aviation problems in early December, so we have a lot of work in rebuilding our economy and our jobs.