State and federal law enforcement and the Oklahoma Legislature are reportedly taking a closer look at Epic Charter School, a fast-growing online and blended school system that has drawn 10,000 new students and tens of millions of dollars in state funding this year alone.
Epic is a charter public school system conducted largely on the internet, but questions have been raised about whether some Epic students are also enrolled in private schools. That would be an inappropriate use of state education money to help private school students.
Concerns have also been raised that Epic isn’t sufficiently transparent about the connections between its nonprofit operation and a for-profit management company that gets 10 percent of its state funding. We don’t like the involvement of the company’s senior leadership in both ends of the operation, especially if taxpayers can’t see where their money is going or how it benefits Epic’s students.
Virtual charter schools have their place. For some children they are the right fit, but taxpayers deserve the assurance that the state’s limited funding for public education is being used appropriately and an essential element of that is to make sure the processes are transparent and subject to the same level of scrutiny as any other school system.
On initial inspection, we like House Bill 1395, which has been offered by Rep. Sheila Dills, R-Tulsa. The bill would require Epic and other virtual charter schools to be subject to the same financial reporting requirements and audits as traditional school districts. Virtual schools would have to report any contracts for administrative fees, including the names of people holding contracts, the amount to be paid for services and details about what services are provided.
The bill also would require virtual charter school governing bodies to be subject to the same conflict-of-interest requirements and continuing education requirements as traditional school boards.
Epic Charter Schools: A Tulsa World investigation