Education & Government
Diana Baker Freeman Image
Diana Baker Freeman
Sr. Manager, Modern Governance Advocacy & Iniatives

What’s ahead for school boards in 2024

January 5, 2024
0 min read
trends for school boards for 2024

2023 brought about its fair share of complexities for school districts, from ongoing pandemic-related disruptions to a surge in political polarization and the need to address critical educational issues.

However, amidst these challenges, school boards also witnessed moments of resilience, innovation and an unwavering dedication to the success of the students in their community.

This blog explores key takeaways for school boards from last year, examines the emerging trends that will shape 2024, and provides guidance for school board members as they steer their districts through the ever-changing world of public education.

What occupied the minds of school board members in 2023?


Following the Uvalde mass shooting in the summer of 2022, security became top of mind for nearly every school district, school administrator and school board member. This trend continued in 2023, during which unfortunately, the number of school shootings outpaced the previous year.


With cyberattacks continuing to rise, and ransomware attacks against K-12 and higher education institutions resulting in over 6.7 million personal records being breached, cybersecurity became a matter of heightened concern for school board members.

Politicization of school board elections

School boards have become more and more politicized with down-ballot elections becoming proxy votes for polarizing national issues. Having previously been solely more of a conservative issue, both parties are now paying more attention to school board races.

“We’re seeing a widening of disagreement on matters of education policy that often falls along party lines, and party members embracing, in some ways, more extreme positions. And so we’re seeing an erosion of the nonpartisan nature of local school boards,” points out Julie Marsh, professor of education policy at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy.

Book bans

An offshoot of the politicization of boards has been book bans with lists of books circulated by conservative groups throughout the country. Board members have been attacked if they did not go along with parents’ rights groups that want to ban certain books, as well as targeting book fairs traditionally hosted by school libraries to raise money to buy more books.

Positive trends and outcomes from 2023

However, not all the news from 2023 was bad.

American students gained in math, beginning to show post-COVID learning loss recovery. We are also beginning to see evidence of positive outcomes from programs working to combat COVID slide.

The public still overwhelmingly supports the work locally elected school board members do.

Trust in schools and school boards is more positive than the news would have us believe:

Trends for 2024 for school boards

These are some of the trends I see that will affect, and should be considered by, school boards this year.

More measured responses to school security

School security remains a focus but there is a move from reactionary security concerns to measured responses not just physical security measures. Evidence-based preventative measures such as providing mental health supports and social-emotional learning are benefiting schools by creating a more positive school climate and helping to improve student behavior.


Cyber threats are not going away. Now many states are bringing in legislation about how school districts must respond to cybersecurity incidents, and will also require that school boards be trained in cybersecurity. It's therefore critical for school boards to look at training for the board and also at implementing a cyber risk management framework.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has a lot of useful templates and resources including, for example, a cybersecurity incident response plan for K-12 schools. You will find information on this and other useful tips in our "Cybersecurity oversight for school boards" webinar which you can access here.


Education savings accounts (ESAs), also known as “super vouchers,” have arrived. There has been a legislative push in certain states to approve ESAs, a campaign that is tied to parental rights. The vouchers would be distributed to private schools, home schools, etc.

These do touch upon the boundaries of church vs. state since most private schools are church-based. To date, there has not been much accountability in terms of testing or governance.

AI governance and legislation

On your journey to AI adoption, your school district or college needs rules and policies to define what is and isn’t allowed. An AI governance framework provides those guardrails.

“If your board does not have an AI framework in place, they should. This should include strategy as well as the policies,” advises Mind Tech Group CEO and board director Richard Barber.

AI governance delivers protection. It ensures that the AI systems you use, and how you use them, align with your district or college’s educational goals and uphold ethical principles like transparency, accountability, and respect for students, their families, staff and the community at large. Download our guide to safe and transparent AI governance for public education leaders.

In terms of legislation, the Artificial Intelligence Literacy Act is a bill introduced in Congress that aims to build AI skills and workforce preparedness as the emerging technology continues to change workplace dynamics. It also opens grant eligibility for K-12 schools, colleges, nonprofits and libraries to support AI literacy.

Move toward more professionalism in board work

After the split of the National School Board Association (NSBA) and the Consortium of State School Boards Associations (COSSBA), there were a lot of questions about how this would impact school boards and board training. Board members are seeing that becoming better educated is the way to combat some of the extremism that has visited school boards recently.

The good news is that boards have more options. Along with state school board associations and NSBA and COSSBA, there are newer collectives and organizations springing up dedicated to the improvement of school boards. Organizations like Govern for Impact, Collective Leadership Strategies, Effective School Boards, and School Board Partners are focusing on the improvement of school boards to ultimately impact improved learning for students.

Student representation on boards

Students are taking more of an interest in governance and decisions regarding their own education. They are no longer willing to sit by and let the adults hold the room - they want input and participation. The National Student Board Member Association (NSBMA) is working to empower and elevate students who serve on boards of education and similar governing bodies across the United States.

As we reflect on the challenges of the past year and what’s expected to impact us this year, it's crucial for school board members to have a positive, forward-focused mindset.

Diligent proudly supports school boards in their dedicated service to students, parents, staff and constituents.

Learn how Diligent Community helps board members to provide good governance with modern tools for oversight, insight and foresight.


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