These are the top 10 topics school boards are discussing right now

This may come as news to some superintendents and district leaders: Book bans and pride flags are not the main topics of discussion at every school board meeting in the country.

Still, the elected officials who hire and fire superintendents are grappling with some complicated topics—particularly those having to do with wellness and human resources, according to a survey of meeting minutes by Burbio, a service that tracks K12 data. The company has compiled a list of the terms most frequently discussed by about half the nation’s school boards at their last three meetings. Here are the top 10 phrases, along with the percentage of school boards discussing them:

  1. Special education: 60%
  2. Mental health: 36%
  3. Nurse: 35%
  4. Staffing: 32%
  5. Negotiations: 31%
  6. Labor: 28%
  7. Contractor: 28%
  8. Bargaining: 24%
  9. Behavior services: 21%
  10. Psychologist: 21%

“Substitute teacher,” “collective bargaining,” “autism” and “school psychologist” also landed in the top 20. Absent from Burbio’s list are headline-grabbing topics such as transgender students, bathrooms and critical race theory.

With districts entering the final school year of ESSER funding, the survey also examined the top construction-related terms. At the typical school board meeting, members and district leaders are drilling down to furniture, lighting and air quality of projects at various stages of the approval process. Here’s the top 10:

  1. Safety
  2. Construction
  3. Security
  4. LED
  5. Classroom chair
  6. Table
  7. Space
  8. HVAC
  9. Energy
  10. Door

Speaking of ESSER, the survey took a close look at spending in one state to gauge how much federal relief funding remains in district coffers. Michigan’s districts have spent 54% of their ESSER money and have just over $1.5 billion left. Some 38 school systems have between $5 million and $50 million remaining, with three still having over $50 million still to spend.

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Matthew Zalaznick
Matthew Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.