Former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer talks education, expresses doubts over Innovation Campus


Selena Favela

Carl Brewer, former mayor of Wichita, speaks to Wichita State students Thursday, April 26, 2018.

Before Carl Brewer served as Mayor of Wichita or began his campaign for Kansas governor, he experienced firsthand the importance of education while working in the private sector.

In 1985, Brewer began working as an operations manager for Spirit AeroSystems. His job was to oversee and train employees working on the manufacturing line.

An interaction he had with his employees during this time opened his eyes to the flaws of the public education system, Brewer said during an on-campus event hosted by the WSU College Democrats.

Brewer’s team was starting a new project, so he asked each of his employees to read the instructions on how to operate the equipment they would be working on.

“I wanted to go through each and every step on how their particular job was going to be done,” Brewer said.

He then asked each of the employees to complete a trial run as he timed them from start to finish.

“Some of them couldn’t get the timing run. Why do you think that was?” Brewer said.

“They couldn’t read or write,” Brewer said. “We had tenured employees that didn’t know how to read or write. They had managed to disguise this for many, many years.”

This was a problem that needed to be addressed immediately, Brewer said.

“So I invested money in reading programs and writing programs,” Brewer said. “They should have learned this in the early stages of their lives, but they didn’t get that.”

Brewer said he still sees problems with how the state addresses higher education. He said he will make it a priority to address these problems if elected governor.

“When we look at higher education, we need to create an environment that is desirable — where teachers want to stay here and students want to come here,” Brewer said.

“It’s our responsibility to get you the best education, to suit you up and prepare you so you can go out and we can say ‘we have this person that went to Wichita State University and we know they are the best and the brightest.”

To do that, Brewer said, the state needs to generate additional revenue dedicated to funding education.

“We’ve got to come up with a tax structure where everybody is paying their fair share,” Brewer said.

The ultimate goal, Brewer said, is for students to get an education “without paying for it for the next 30 years.”

Brewer said state universities play a major role in their communities.

He said the University of Kansas and Kansas State University are the “anchors” of their respective cities. Because WSU is in a larger city, Brewer said, it plays a smaller, but still significant role.

“They provide us with the resources we need for the future,” Brewer said. “They have the expertise in various different fields that is helpful, whether it’s in the public sector or the private sector.”

In 2008, when Brewer served as mayor of Wichita, the city was in need of an interim city manager. That’s when H. Ed Flentje, then the director of the Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public Affairs at WSU, stepped in and served for seven months, a move Brewer said was “very helpful.”

“They have all the resources a city could possibly imagine it could need,” Brewer said.

After the meeting with the WSU College Democrats, Brewer shared his thoughts on the WSU Innovation Campus with The Sunflower.

Brewer said, although he agrees with the “philosophy and theory” behind Innovation Campus, he is unsure whether the investment will pay off.

It’s “certainly an improvement” from Braeburn Golf Course, which originally occupied the space, Brewer said.

“I understand the concept and think it’s a good concept,” Brewer said.

“But I think the verdict is still out as to how successful it is going to be.”