State Auditor and Inspector calls on Attorney General O’Connor to move on Epic Schools probe

State and regional news

TULSA — After two years, and a scathing audit of Epic Charter Schools and Epic Youth Services, State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd says someone needs to take action to bring criminal charges to bear against those she believes responsible for defrauding Oklahoma taxpayers out of millions of dollars.

Byrd told KRMG Tuesday she’s unclear why, despite mountains of evidence, no one has been held accountable for actions which she believes have cost the state’s education department at least $165 million.

“Every day I ask myself why has something not been done about this situation,” she said. “Millions of dollars, our tax dollars, have been taken by a company. And we have no idea what this school paid for.”

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She said the public needs to understand that the schools themselves don’t appear to be at fault, but rather the two men who originally founded Epic Charter Schools, then created a management company, Epic Youth Services, which the schools paid for management services.

The new board terminated all ties with those two men, Ben Harris and David Chaney, as well as Epic Youth Services, in May of this year.

EYS expected to collect $40 million in fiscal year 2021, Byrd says, but the new board was able to get the job done spending only about a million dollars.

State law caps management and administrative costs at 5%, by law.

EYS was charging twice that, 10%, and worse, put the money into outside accounts over which there was apparently no oversight - so it’s unclear if any of that money actually benefitted students.

Epic Charter Schools, it’s important to note, are public schools, fully funded by taxpayer dollars.

“I’m hoping that the Attorney General’s Office will step up and take a look at this, and hold this company responsible,” Byrd told KRMG. “Two men took millions of dollars from our Oklahoma children’s education. Oklahoma ranks one of the lowest... states in the nation for education funding, and we can’t afford this kind of malfeasance.”

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