Return to Headlines

4-13-22 — Budget Realignment Info Night Recap and FAQs

April 13, 2022 ~ On April 12, Olathe Public Schools employees and community members were invited to attend a Budget Realignment Information Night to learn more about the district’s budget realignment for the 2022-23 school year. Deputy Superintendent John Hutchison provided an overview of the district’s budget challenges, including why the district is currently facing budget realignment, the makeup of the district’s budget and steps taken to this point to balance the budget, including reductions to all department and school budgets, the elimination of the Olathe Virtual School, approximately 140 certified/licensed positions that will not be filled following staff resignations and retirements, and a reduction in positions district-wide at all levels.

Watch a video recording of the Budget Realignment Information Night

Frequently Asked Questions

The district has received nearly 300 questions regarding budget realignment and is currently working to address them. Many questions addressed similar issues and have been consolidated to reflect the most frequently asked questions to avoid redundancies. The list below will continue to be updated with questions as they are submitted. If you have an additional question or do not see your question reflected below, please submit your question to

Added April 19

How is eliminating kindergarten aides helping the budget situation and not impacting students?

Kindergarten aides have not always been in our district. They are a holdover from when parents paid for full-day kindergarten. Parents also covered the cost of these positions through tuition. They were only at non-title schools. Because we have had the luxury of growth, the amount of money was not detrimental until now. These kindergarten aide positions are unique to Olathe and not common in other local school districts. If we kept these positions, we would be looking for an additional 13-15 certified staff members to retire or resign. Our Human Resources team is working directly with those staff who were impacted by this change who would like to remain in the district.

Why is the district eliminating Math 180 and Read 180?

Read 180 and Math 180 were started in a time when there was not MTSS expectations in the state of Kansas around reading and math. Since that time, we have started programs like Academic Intervention that will provide strategic intervention for reading and math that will alleviate the need for Read 180 and Math 180. The teachers who teach Read 180 and Math 180 will still be employed by the district in the subject areas they are licensed to teach.

Added April 15

How does increasing aides’ (ELL, Title, etc.) hours next year from 6.5 hours a day to 7 hours a day help reduce the budget?

By standardizing hours for our aides, it will help reduce the number of overall staff members needed to cover a school day. We have aides working anywhere from 3-8 hours per day. This can cause gaps in coverage at the beginning or end of a day which may result in lack of coverage or the need to hire another employee to cover that gap. Hiring another employee is an added cost to the district, whereas by increasing the work hours for current staff members, these issues are alleviated at a minimal cost. Additionally, due to this lack of standardization, there are staffing inequities in buildings throughout the district and through this realignment, overall savings will be realized.

How many teachers are leaving this year? Is this by their own choice or are they being laid off?

To date, we have 138 teachers who have submitted retirements, resignations, or leave of absence requests effective at the end of the school year. All 138 are the employees’ choice. They were not laid off or reduced. There is a group of five certified/licensed employees whose positions were eliminated.

Why did we keep elementary library aides when their secondary counterparts were eliminated?

Elementary students visit the library as part of their “specials” class rotation, which also includes physical education, art, computers, and music classes where they spend a dedicated portion of their day each week. During their time in the library, students often have a lesson and check-out books. Administration determined that two staff members were necessary to assist younger students with navigating the resources to make proper book selections, as well as check-out procedures and the subsequent re-shelving of materials. Middle and high school students do not visit the library as a separate class but utilize the library as an additional environment for learning supported by a trained library media specialist as it relates to core and elective classes, as well as reading for pleasure, and various other resource and material needs. Recognizing these students are more adept at navigating the resources available with the support of library media specialists in the library as well as the ability to have students self-check-out and possibly assist with re-shelving of materials, the decision was made to cut the secondary library clerk positions. Our human resources team is working directly with those staff who were impacted by this change who would like to remain in the district.

What happens if the Kansas Legislature passes the bill that allows students to transfer districts?

Olathe Public Schools needs to be able to plan and prepare from year to year in order to best meet the needs of our students, from adequate staffing to programming needs and more. The proposed bill would allow parents to enroll students throughout the year, which makes planning challenging. Additionally, because of this, a district may not receive the financial resources to ensure appropriate programs and resources are available to support learning outcomes.

Added April 14

How did the 3 percent increase across the board for staff actually work?

As teachers move down and across our salary schedule, their annual pay increases. The cost of that increase for this year, collectively, was 3 percent. Traditionally, we provide that same percent raise to the other staff in the district. In addition, staff received a one-time payment from ESSER funds and the increased cost of health insurance was absorbed by the district. In total, that equates to a 4 percent increase across the district.

How do our Education Center salaries compare to our neighboring districts?

It depends on the position and the functions under that position. Many senior leaders in the Olathe Public Schools oversee numerous departments, which may not be the case in all districts. However, on a per pupil basis, our district level administrative salaries are the second lowest in the state.

Please explain the state SPED funding situation. If it’s never been fully funded, why is it just a worry this year?

Before student enrollment declined, the district was able to fund the increasing special education transfer by absorbing it within our growth. Historically, our growth was able to accommodate the costs related to our special education programs.

Did you look at cutting programs like Mastery Connect or Front Gate – why did we not cut these?

These programs are paid out of a different fund and do not have any impact on the operating fund.

Do we have money in reserves? Can we use that for budget cuts?

Yes we have money in reserves – however, reserves represent a one-time fix and not a long-term fix. Using reserve funds would simply delay the challenges we are currently facing for a temporary amount of time. Reserves are utilized throughout the year for cash flow.

How much does DEI cost?

Diversity and Engagement is a department and has a similar budget structure to other departments within the district – salary, benefits, supplies, etc. Other than compensation and benefits, the Diversity and Engagement department's 2021-22 budget includes $9,500 for non-compensation costs.

What is the district doing to attract students?

As a public school district, we do not actively recruit students but educate those who live within our attendance boundaries. While we cannot recruit outside of our own district, we do include advertisements in the Olathe, Overland Park and Lenexa Chamber of Commerce guides about the high-quality educational experience in Olathe Public Schools.

Where does money come from that pays for lawsuits against the district?

Through the district’s special liability fund, which is estimated to raise approximately $700,000 for this fiscal year.

How did the COVID pandemic affect enrollment?

The district saw a decrease of over 900 students, which led to a decrease in funding.

How are maintenance or technology budgets funded? Can cutting these help us?

Maintenance and technology budgets are funded through a combination of operating, capital, and bond funds. At this time, the district does not anticipate making additional cuts to staffing in these areas.

What are you doing for positions being cut? Unemployment? Trying to get other jobs?

The district is committed to working with employees to find other employment opportunities within the district. All employees are eligible to file for unemployment.

How are 21st Century programs funded versus regular high school programs? Why not cut 21st Century programs?

21st Century programs require additional funding due to the specialized curriculum. Their budgets are being reduced by 50 percent for the 2022-23 school year.

Does state funding take into account inflation?

Yes, it does take inflation into account.

Why didn’t the district choose to build another elementary school instead of rebuilding Santa Fe Trail Middle School?

Santa Fe Trail Middle School needs significant repairs, and the cost of these repairs is nearly that of a full replacement of the building. Current enrollment projections do not indicate the need for an elementary school for at least five years.

Have we considered redoing boundaries? Would this help with budget cuts?

While the district reviews boundaries annually, boundary adjustments would not have any impact on the operating budget.

Why was the bond advertised as creating jobs?

The bond projects will create jobs and spending within the community. For more information, see the Bond Economic Impact Flyer.

Will we still hire paras for next year?

Yes, there are currently multiple paraprofessional vacancies for the 2022-23 school year.

Why are we adding assistant principals at the elementary level?

It is becoming increasingly difficult to find candidates who are properly prepared to become principals. It is a large jump from teacher to elementary principal. Therefore, the district created three elementary assistant principalships to help in preparing and identifying future principals.

How can we “double dip” on school lunch dollars? Why do they need to apply if the federal government is paying for everyone, not just those who qualify?

The district is not and cannot double dip. The federal government paid for school breakfast and lunches for the 2021-22 school year for all students. The Household Economic Survey identifies students who would have previously qualified for at-risk funding. The number of students who qualify is the basis for our at-risk funding we receive from the state of Kansas. Therefore, without these applications being completed by families, the district’s at-risk funding decreased.

If we are being audited three times a year, who is doing these audits?

The Kansas State Department of Education conducts a financial audit once a year, as well as a special education audit. The district also has an independent financial audit performed by a public accounting firm.

In the future, where can we find out information about the budget?

All budget is found on the district website under Quick Links, Financial Information.

Added April 13

Why are we facing these budget cuts when other neighboring districts are not?

Neighboring school districts are, in fact, facing budget challenges. However, each district is feeling the impact of the budget challenges differently. There are a variety of reasons why Olathe seems to be hit the hardest. Some of our neighboring districts have additional capacity with their capital outlay funds that allow them to shift staff salaries for custodial and maintenance positions from their operating fund to capital outlay, freeing up operating dollars to address some of their challenges. In Olathe, we have already done this. Additionally, other districts may not have experienced the same level of weighting losses per student. Weightings provide additional funding for various types of students, such as bilingual students.

The Olathe community just voted to approve a $298.3 million bond. Why can’t you just use these bond funds to help with the budget deficit?

Bond funds can only be used for constructing, equipping, maintaining and furnishing district facilities. This makes bond funds different from the district’s operating funds, which are used to pay salaries, supplies, utilities and other day-to-day expenses. Bond funds can only be used for capital-type purchases. The district is facing budget challenges with its operating funds. Bond funds and operating funds are separate, and according to state law, bond funds cannot be used for operating-type expenses.

How did the district decide where you were going to make cuts, especially in staffing?

The district took a tiered approach to limit the impact on the classroom and personnel. The district started with non-personnel type items such as reductions to department and school budgets by 25 percent and academy budgets by 50 percent. Then, we moved to district-level and school supports, aligning support staff, work schedules and staffing based on the various levels and building sizes. Finally, realignment reached the classroom with the reduction of secondary library aides, kindergarten aides and the elimination of the Olathe Virtual School. The district was strategic in selecting positions that would have an opportunity to reapply for other openings in the district to continue employment with the Olathe Public Schools if desired, such as paraprofessional openings, certified teaching openings, etc.

Who is involved in making decisions about budget cuts?

Senior leadership and principals at all levels were involved in discussions around budget.

Why did you wait so long to tell people about job eliminations? In addition, why did you wait to tell the public about the budget deficit until after the bond passed?

One of the primary goals in realigning the budget was to impact as few staff members as possible. As a district, we know that we typically have around 200 staff members who leave each year due to retirements and resignations, or what is known as attrition. The district has been closely monitoring the number of retirements and resignations in the hope that this attrition would cover all required reductions. The district waited as long as possible to impact as few staff members as possible, but there came a point when it was necessary to share the budget challenges to provide staff members time to seek other positions within the school district.

Passage of the bond played a critical role in reducing the overall reduction needed. Had the bond not passed, costs currently covered by the bond would have had to be paid for out of operating funds, thus increasing the projected shortfall. Therefore, we had to wait for the outcome of the bond vote to plan accordingly and realign our budget to our resources.

If the salaries for next year have not been finalized, can we as a district commit to a 0 percent increase in district level salaries or a universal pay cut for all staff next year?

If we were to take this approach, every staff member would need to take a 12 percent pay cut in order to make up the $28.6 million shortfall in its entirety. More importantly, all changes in compensation are mandatorily negotiable with certified/licensed personnel in the state of Kansas. The district has just begun negotiations with this group, as is standard every spring, for the upcoming school year. Administrators would not receive an increase for next school year if teachers do not receive a raise.

Has the administrative level been affected by budget cuts? And if so, how?

Yes, the district has cut $1.5 million, or 11.5 percent of personnel within administrative departments. This includes 14 positions in the Education Center and Instructional Resource Center, including three administrators, four coordinators, two instructional coaches, four HR support staff and one additional support position.

Are there other areas we can make cuts to besides staffing? What about eliminating sports teams, extracurriculars or closing one of our elementary schools with low capacity?

Yes, the district has already reduced department and school budgets by 25 percent and academy budgets by 50 percent. Our priority is to continue providing high-quality learning experiences with a leaner budget. However, with almost 90 percent of the district’s operating budget allocated to compensation, it is nearly impossible to avoid impacting staff.

The Olathe Public Schools should be in its best financial position possible with all the ESSER funds. Why not? Where did the ESSER money go?

In 2020, school districts had the opportunity to apply for Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds, or ESSER funds, for federal COVID relief funding. ESSER funds are focused specifically on education and are primarily intended to support learning loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While ESSER I focused primarily on remote learning and providing a safe in-person learning environment (PPE and development of remote learning strategies), ESSER II and ESSER III have provided and will continue to provide classroom supports toward student needs which have resulted from the pandemic (MTSS coaches, additional counselors, summer school, maintain class sizes, etc.).

These funds are intended to support the district through the 2021-22 school year and helped delay budget realignment until the 2022-23 school year.

What will happen to voluntary early retirement in the future?

The Board of Education would have to notify staff a year in advance of eliminating voluntary early retirement. And at this point, that hasn't been addressed by the board.

Why did you decide to close Olathe Virtual School and how does this help the budget shortfall?

In its initial year, the program resulted in a $2.7 million loss. To try to replicate the in-person educational experience in a virtual format required more staffing than schools with traditional classrooms. This has resulted in an unsustainable model. Closing OVS makes the $2.7 million available to address the budget shortfall.

Is it true that Olathe didn’t fill out the paperwork for free and reduced lunch? If so, how did that affect us? Can you require free and reduced lunch form to be filled out? How can we get more people to fill out their free and reduced lunch forms?

When the pandemic hit in 2020, the federal government began offering free breakfast and lunch to all students through the end of the 2021-22 school year. Previously, in order to qualify for free and reduced lunch, a family had to fill out an application. Because of the change to free breakfast and lunch for all, the state was required to shift to the Household Economic Survey to identify at-risk students. Because it cannot be required to have every family fill it out, families chose not to fill out the form despite multiple communications at various levels. Due to forms not being filled out by families in need, we had a decrease in at-risk funding. In the future, we will continue to encourage families to fill out the form at both the school and district level.

Will certified/licensed staff still be able to move across the pay scale?

This is a mandatorily negotiable item. We are obligated to have a negotiation with teachers regarding the pay scale.

Will there be changes to the benefits like health insurance premiums that staff receive next year?

Similar to the pay scale, benefits are a mandatorily negotiable item.

Previously, the district projected a growing student population. That seems to have not come to fruition. Can you please address why the projections were inaccurate?

In short, the pandemic. The unexpected pandemic created a decrease in the student population for a variety of reasons.

In general, why has the district approved any raises over the past few years if budget cuts were a concern?

In order to remain competitive with neighboring school districts, and recruit and retain quality staff, the district felt it was important to maintain competitive salaries.

Are we getting rid of any teachers at this time? It was stated that there would be “no more reductions in any classification” this year. If that’s true, will there be reassignments or transfers to help keep the district equitable in each school as much as possible?

At this time, the only anticipated reductions would be through attrition. There will be transfers, as there are every year, to ensure equity across all schools in the district.

Will elementary specialists remain full time next year?

At this time, the district is not anticipating any changes to elementary specialists.