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Lawmakers announce joint hearing on Epic Charter Schools audit

Lawmakers announce joint hearing on Epic Charter Schools audit


State lawmakers announced Monday that they will hold a joint hearing to go over an investigative audit critical of Epic Charter Schools.

State Reps. Rhonda Baker, R-Yukon, and Mark McBride, R-Moore, said they would hold the joint hearing Oct. 21 to go over the audit and quiz State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd about the report’s findings.

McBride, in an interview, said he had concerns about “several things” outlined in the audit, but said he would “see what comes out of everything before I pass any kind of judgment on anyone.”

He declined to cite any specific concerns.

“The Epic teachers and students, I don’t want anybody to ever feel like we have anything against them; we just need to make sure things are running the way they are supposed to,” McBride said.

Byrd on Oct. 1 released an investigative audit of Epic Charter Schools.

The audit, which came at the request of Gov. Kevin Stitt, determined Epic owes the state of Oklahoma millions of dollars.

Stitt requested the audit after public revelations that the school’s financial dealings were being investigated by state and federal law enforcement.

On Monday, the state Board of Education voted to seek to recoup $11.2 million from Epic officials.

The bulk of the funds being sought were identified by the audit as funds that exceeded a 5% state cap on administrative overhead costs.

The audit also found improper fund transfers, the improper mixing of public dollars among Epic’s two charter schools and lax oversight by the school’s local governing board and the state Department of Education.

The audit findings, believed to be the first of a two-part audit, were referred to the state Attorney General’s Office, the FBI and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.

Epic officials have said while the audit calls for changes in state law it didn’t point out any violations of state law.

Baker chairs the House Common Education Committee, while McBride is chairman of the House Appropriations & Budget Subcommittee.

Baker and McBride jointly stated: “These hearings are not about determining guilt or innocence because that is the responsibility of law enforcement, not legislators. These hearings are not about school choice or Epic’s learning model because those are not the issues in this audit. These hearings are about gathering information for policymaking. We owe it to the thousands of Oklahomans who favor learning models like these to ensure the tax dollars provided for this purpose are used appropriately for the benefit of students and families.”

Video: State auditor releases investigation of Epic Charter Schools.

Epic Charter Schools: A Tulsa World investigation.

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