Opinion: Olathe’s Budget Cuts Impact School Learning Environment


OW Library puts up their monthly sign saying “The Library is the heart of the school”.

Ellie Pogorek, Writer

Effective next school year, the Olathe public schools have decided to cut staff throughout the district, such as library clerks at all levels, kindergarten aids, and not replace teachers who are leaving at the end of the year, while also eliminating the virtual online school. These changes come after Olathe announced a $28.6 million budget cut due to less federal funding than in previous years. 

“This was the perfect storm of budget challenges,” said Dr. Brent Yeager in an email to Olathe staff. “From the slowing of district growth and the tapering off of funding provided to districts who are growing rapidly, to the incredible impact of the pandemic that led to student enrollment decreases, along with the change to the National School Lunch program that negatively impacted the district — all of this added up to create an unexpected financial strain on the operating budget.” 

In order for a school to get funding, the district must provide some sort of standardized test scores that improve every year to show how students are learning and growing over time. For the past two years, we have seen a decline in those test scores due to COVID-19. 

This is the fault of no teachers nor staff, it is simply due to the fact that it was unsafe for students to be in the building full-time until this past school year. With that in mind, tests will be lower than normal. For example, the senior class did not finish a full year of chemistry class, so of course their science scores are going to be lower than in previous years. 

With these new changes, the repercussions will be felt all throughout the Olathe schools with less staff, larger class sizes, and less help for students. With budget cuts starting as low as the kindergarten level, there will be some serious long-term effects on students–such as students falling behind because the teachers do not have the help they need due to larger class sizes. 

How are larger class sizes going to help any students or staff? With bigger class sizes, teachers will not be able to have that one-on-one time that is needed for children to succeed. Let alone that larger class sizes are the reason many teachers are already quitting and will continue to cause more frustration and anxiety for teachers. 

Another big change to the budget is the elimination of Olathe’s virtual school. This was one of the biggest strains on the budget in the past two years since it’s been open. Since the students at the virtual school were not considered ‘in-person’ students to the district, funding was decreased because it had seemed as though Olathe had a decreased number of students. Since those students will have to return to in-building schools, the budget should go back up to semi-regular numbers in the following years. 

Olathe should hopefully see another budget increase next year compared to this year, and back to its original numbers from previous years. So with that money, Olathe should be able to hire more staff to help reduce the larger class sizes and even possibly be able to rehire library clerks and kindergarten aids. If the budget does go back up to our original numbers, the rehiring of those positions should be something Olathe should strongly consider before putting that funding anywhere else. 

Although the 2022-2023 will be more difficult than ever with these new budget cuts, funding should return to at least semi-normal in the following years. So although it will be a challenge next school year, if Olathe were to put more money into the rehire of positions that they are cutting in years to come, things should be back on track for students and staff to return to a normal school environment.