Monday, October 05, 2020

Wide-ranging reaction to Epic Charter Schools audit


Epic Charter Schools has been the subject of a recent audit as ordered by Governor Stitt. Last week, State Auditor Cindy Byrd released the first part of the audit at a press conference in Oklahoma City.

In this post, you can read reactions from:

  • Epic Charter Schools
  • Governor Stitt and State Superintendent Hofmeister
  • House Democrats
  • The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs

From Epic, you can watch a four-minute response (below) or read a 132-page PDF rebuttal and response here.



GOVERNOR STITT, SUPERINTENDENT HOFMEISTER REACT TO EPIC CHARTER SCHOOLS INVESTIGATIVE AUDIT

OKLAHOMA CITY (October 1, 2020) – Governor Kevin Stitt and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister issued the following statements today regarding the investigative audit of Epic Charter Schools released by Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd:

“While we are still reviewing the entire contents of the audit, the initial findings are concerning. Our state has recently invested in public education at the highest levels in our state’s history, and Oklahomans deserve accountability and transparency on how their hard-earned tax dollars are being spent.

“I am grateful for Auditor Byrd’s extensive work on this report and agree that her findings are not representative of all public charter schools or alternative forms of education. We know parents want educational options, especially in light of how education has shifted during the COVID-19 pandemic. We expect every Oklahoma student to have access to high quality options that are transparent about their performance and accountable to taxpayers. 

“I am committed to working with Superintendent Hofmeister and the Legislature to ensure our public education funding provides the maximum benefit for our students and teachers.” – Governor Kevin Stitt

“In an education environment where every dollar is being stretched to the limit, these findings are deeply disturbing. It is one thing for a public school to utilize the services of a private vendor, which is common practice, but when that private vendor operates the school in question and can manipulate that structure to obfuscate or mislead, there is something systematically wrong. Oklahomans deserve better.

“As the coronavirus pandemic has made clear, there is no question that virtual instruction and innovative models are important options for many students and families. These changes are rapidly transforming the education landscape and it is critical that laws, policies and infrastructure keep pace to ensure transparency and accountability. We will closely examine the most appropriate steps moving forward in consultation with the State Auditor and other state officials.” – State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister


Former Educators, Current Dem Lawmakers Respond to Epic Audit

OKLAHOMA CITY – Members of the House Democratic Education Policy Group released the following statements in response to State Auditor Cindy Byrd’s findings from an investigative audit into Epic Youth Services.

Each of the lawmakers responding to Auditor Byrd’s findings are former Oklahoma public school educators. 

“As we have said from the beginning, our concern has never been about our teachers that work for Epic,” said State Rep. Melissa Provenzano, D-Tulsa. “Our concerns have always been upstream. Were Oklahoma tax dollars being spent on our students? Today it appears we found out they were not.”

“As somebody who believes in accountability and transparency, hearing that it was such a struggle to get information for this audit from Epic Youth Services is disheartening,” said State Rep. Jacob Rosecrants, D-Norman. “While I believe there is a place in our state for virtual charter schools, I believe it is our place to ensure that the taxpayer knows exactly how and on what their money is spent.”

“It is completely inappropriate to allow $125 million meant for Oklahoma public school students to be managed outside the purview of Oklahoma taxpayers,” said State Rep. John Waldron, D-Tulsa. “We owe our citizens a thorough accounting just as we owe all our public school students a quality education.”

“Today we learned that one person is responsible for managing funds on both the public and private side of the business,” said State Rep. Trish Ranson, D-Stillwater. “This lack of accountability and oversight is especially alarming as Epic has now grown to the state’s largest school district.” 

Lawmakers from the House Democratic Education Policy Group first started voicing concerns regarding Epic’s business practices more than a year ago. Provenzano said this about the school in July of 2019: 

“This school has consistently demonstrated questionable actions in how money is spent (most often not directly on students), financial decisions, the way attendance is calculated, and their questionable record keeping. Given the strict oversight the state Department of Education has for brick-and-mortar schools, I am eager for their response to this situation and their plans to keep this from ever happening again.” 


OCPA: Children deserve audit process beyond reproach

OKLAHOMA CITY (October 2, 2020)— Jonathan Small, president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, issued the following statement today in response to the partial audit of EPIC Charter Schools released this week by the office of the State Auditor and Inspector.

“The attacks on schools of choice in Oklahoma amount to torching the lifeboats for tens of thousands of families with school-age children. Across our state right now, thousands of families are pulling their hair out because the traditional public schools are just not providing what is needed or expected. No school is perfect, but thousands of parents of children all over our state are desperately searching for something that works. Any investigation of EPIC should be done with full transparency while keeping in mind that tens of thousands of students’ lives could be negatively affected if the state audit process is not beyond reproach.

“While this may baffle some status-quo defenders, the reason Epic is now officially the largest school district in our state is because the government monopoly public school system and its lack of performance has become starkly apparent during this COVID season. That’s why so many families have opted for EPIC over their local public school. And those families, as well as many other citizens, want to know why the state seems to be applying rules and restrictions to schools of choice that are seldom applied in equal measure to neighborhood public schools.”

The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs is a free-market think tank that works to advance principles and policies that support free enterprise, limited government, and individual initiative.

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