For the first time Oklahoma's history, the department of education will undergo an audit.
On Thursday afternoon, Governor Kevin Stitt sent a letter to the state auditor's office requesting it look into the education department's spending and revenue sources after he said the state found evidence of the department misusing funds.
Stitt said that discovery can be traced back to a different audit of EPIC Charter Schools.
In that report, the auditor found the department of education failed to properly monitor the Oklahoma Cost Accounting System for compliance, which is essentially how districts report their funding allocation.
"The reason that that’s significant is because we have state statutes that limit the amount of dollars you can spend in administrative costs, there's some other laws as well, but that's the one they really focused on," said Secretary of Education Ryan Walters.
The Secretary of Education is a cabinet position appointed by Stitt that has some oversight of the department but does not run the day-to-day operations. That role is assigned to State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, an elected position Walters is now running for.
"We want to ensure that our taxpayer dollars are going to the classroom," said Walters. "We think it’s essential to ensure transparency.”
While Walters is praising the audit, Hofmeister is slamming it.
In a statement, Hofmeister said:
“The Governor’s call for an audit is yet another attack on Oklahoma’s public education system.
As the Governor should already know, the State Department of Education has undergone more than 20 financial, compliance and programmatic review audits by the state auditor’s office in the last 6-1/2 years. Additionally, the Governor’s hand-picked Secretary of Education approves every agency expenditure over $25,000 on a weekly basis. Every single spending request has been personally approved by Secretary Ryan Walters.
At a time during which there are serious audits we have requested which potentially involve criminal activity, and while 541 school districts are struggling to find normalcy during a pandemic, the Governor’s attack on public education couldn’t be worse timing for students, families, teachers and taxpayers.”