With each issue, Tasbo+Edu brings you an interview with experts on issues related to education. Here is this week’s subject:
John E. Wilson is the program director for Baylor University’s Doctor of Education in K–12 Educational Leadership. He has four decades of educational experience, including 20 years as a superintendent.
Editor's note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tasbo+Edu: What is the focus of your work?
Dr. John. E. Wilson: My major thrust has been doing the research on the state of practitioner doctoral programs in educational leadership.
Tasbo+Edu: You’ve spent a number of years trying to design a great program for practitioners. What are the best practices for training people to do this kind of work?
Wilson: One is, in the world of educational leadership, you find yourself having to know a lot about a lot of different things. And sometimes you’re not a specialist in any of them.
In my opinion, there’s not a cookbook method of saying, "This is what we do to train leaders," and everybody does this and therefore they are a leader. Leadership is about relationships, first of all, and I think that people have to be able to relate to other people of all walks of life. In the public arena, we serve all children and all families, whether they’re rich or poor, or whatever their ethnicity is, whatever their socioeconomic status is, whatever religious belief they come from, whatever walk of life they come from, whatever status they enter the system in. Part of our challenge, and role, is to be able to start with children where they are.
Tasbo+Edu: What do you see as the biggest challenges facing someone who wants to go into the field of K-12 education today?
Wilson: I think the challenges are multiple. It’s not one simple challenge, it is a compilation of many complex challenges. Serving a very diverse population is one thing. Another one is the idea of technology and its impact on our society, and also its impact on our education systems.
On the preparation of students side, these young people who are coming to the table — many of them have been playing computer games and using a computer and they’re kind of like a duck in the water. They can swim. So part of our role is also to have leaders who understand that dynamic and everything that goes along with it: everything from your social media to your use of technology in the instructional process. It’s just another form of education but it’s a very viable one. You can see how technology is having a huge impact on the environment, as well as the delivery system for educational entities, and that’s a big challenge.
Tasbo+Edu: Public education and school finance were really big issues this year with the state legislature. What do you think of what happened at the state level?
Wilson: The weight of who pays for the education has shifted drastically from the state’s share — which was about 60 percent — to the state’s share today being at around 35 percent and about 60 percent or so on the local property tax owners. That’s been the major shift, and that’s always been the ongoing battle about adequacy and the constitutionality of our funding of our public school system.
I think it’s hurt the education system — this is my opinion. Costs for schools have continued to escalate, and not only just increased from cost increase of the same product, but because of additional requirements that have come through both the state and federal legislation that have required schools to do more. The expenses driving schools have risen, too, and the funding side has not adequately kept up. And districts have had to do more work with less. I can just tell you that it’s been 33 years of doing more with less and yet at the same time, still trying to keep our salaries competitive so that people will continue to go into education. We’re seeing more people not go into education at the teaching level, and that’s a crisis not just in Texas but across the nation.