Epic Charter Schools faces new investigations as state demands it return more than $11 million

The state agency which oversees virtual charter schools could potentially vote to end its contract with Epic on Tuesday

TULSA — An embattled system of virtual and blended charter schools which recently became the largest district in the state based on enrollment may not have its contract with Oklahoma much longer.

Monday, the Oklahoma State Board of Education voted unanimously to demand Epic repay about $11.2 million dollars in taxpayer money it received under the state’s agreement with the charter school.

Also Monday, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter announced the appointment of a special counsel to take over his office’s investigation into the results of a 15-month long audit of Epic.

A scathing report on the audit of the entities which make up the Epic system was released October 1st by State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd.

“Our audit is around 120 pages long,” Byrd said in announcing those results, “so it would take hours to explain all the violations we discovered.”

The crux of investigation centers on how Epic allegedly conducted little oversight on how it handled millions in taxpayer dollars.

The audit found Epic underreported payroll costs for administrators by nearly $8 million.

Oklahoma schools are required to cap their administrative costs at 5%, to ensure most of the money actually gets spent in the classroom.

The company’s also accused of reclassifying those administrative costs, thus avoiding penalties of about $2.6 million.

Epic’s also accused of using more than $200,000 in Oklahoma taxpayer money to support its school in California - money which Byrd said was paid back only after it was uncovered by the audit.

Tuesday, the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board will meet, and on its agenda are several items related to Epic.

That includes possibly taking action “including but not limited to proceeding with termination of the charter contract.”

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