Interim Study Seeks To Close Charter School Loopholes, State Lawmaker Says


Monday, October 4th 2021, 3:56 pm
By: Augusta McDonnell


OKLAHOMA CITY -

The fallout from the Epic Charter School audit continues as lawmakers now seek to introduce new regulatory measures. 

An interim study introduced by Rep. Sheila Dills, R-Tulsa, seeks to close loopholes in contract models between charter schools and the education management companies they hire to run their programs.

“This is public funds being paid to a private account. So, we want to make sure that the dollars are transparent and they’re held accountable for those dollars,” Dills said. 

This comes after the state auditor’s office found millions of dollars were paid to the Epic Charter School’s hired management company, Epic Youth Services, with no clear indication of how it was spent. 

Dills introduced House Bill 2966 which passed in the House last spring, but stalled in the Senate. 

Dills will be using the information from the ongoing interim study to introduce new legislation this upcoming session. 

“To get a feel for if they are providing, these goods and services at fair market value, and how those boards of those charter schools examine that,” she said. 

The Epic charter audit prompted Gov. Kevin Stitt’s office to request the state auditor look at financial controls within Oklahoma State Department of Education. 

State Auditor Cindy Byrd spoke in Monday's session and talked about how her office will be investigating the cost accounting system that guide state education spending. 

“The what we will be doing is selecting a sample of school districts across the state, and we will be following the proper OCAS reporting procedure,” Byrd said. 

The Oklahoma Cost Accounting System is used by the state education department to track schools finances. 

The new Epic Charter School board president Paul Campbell also spoke to lawmakers and condemned the school's founders.