Gov. Stitt Announces Education Dept. Audit; Supt. Hofmeister Offers Response


Thursday, September 16th 2021, 5:33 pm
By: Augusta McDonnell


OKLAHOMA CITY -

Governor Kevin Stitt announced an investigative audit into the State Department of Education Thursday to examine the department’s revenue streams and accounting practices.

The audit comes after concerns that that OSDE doesn’t have good control over how districts across the state spend mone​y after a 2020 investigation found that Epic Charter Schools misreported millions of dollars without the state’s knowledge.

Twenty-two lawmakers requested the audit last November. Secretary of Education Ryan Walters said the governor’s office waited to request the investigation due to how in-depth it will be. 

State Auditor Cindy Byrd said in a statement that investigators are going to look at some key things: revenue streams, how money was allocated and whether the department and local district complied with financial reporting requirements. 

“In the end, the intended purpose of this audit is to ensure per pupil spending and education funding is making it to the classroom,” Byrd said.

Byrd also noted that she appreciated Gov. Stitt validating the Epic Charter Schools audit findings after he dismissed them when they the audit was published last year.

It’s a massive investigation. OSDE has a $3 billion dollar budget, plus an additional $1.5 billion in American Rescue Plan funds.

Walters could not confirm any other complaints into the department except the Epic Charter Schools’ previous audit findings. 

“Parents are always concerned and are always interested in ensuring that taxpayer dollars are going to good use for their kids,” Walters said. 

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister responded to the governor’s office, saying, “The Governor’s call for an audit is yet another attack on Oklahoma’s public education system.”

Hofmeister also said the department has “undergone more than 20 financial, compliance and programmatic review audits by the state auditor’s office in the last 6 1/2 years.”

Each week, Walters approves every agency expenditure over $25,000. 

Spokespeople at the state auditor’s office said Thursday that an investigation like this takes at least six months. 

The OSDE confirmed to News 9 they will participate fully with the investigation.