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Republican Lawmakers to Ask Stitt for Audit of Oklahoma State Department of Education

Serge Melki

Citing concerns stemming from a damning state audit of Epic Charter Schools, a group of about two-dozen Republican state lawmakers want Gov. Kevin Stitt to order an audit of the State Department of Education.

They said the Epic audit notes the agency didn’t properly monitor a statewide school expense reporting system at the center of millions of dollars auditors identified as misspent by the charter school.

The lawmakers believe that could mean hundreds of millions of dollars of misused funds.

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister was asked in a joint legislative hearing on the Epic audit last month whether the education department adequately performed duties to ensure compliance. She said then the education department is always trying to improve monitoring of the system.

"We’re talking about millions of data points that would be from every expenditure for every single school district that their local board I supposed to be governing. But for that review process, yes, that should be greater, but it is going to take resources," Hofmeister said.

Hofmeister also told lawmakers in that hearing the education department counts on superintendents to confirm their expenses were entered correctly. If it turns out they weren’t, the public school superintendents face consequences, but charter officials don’t.

"We can remove their license. In a charter, that won’t matter, because they’re not required to have certified superintendents. So, there’s just a difference in the overall models," Hofmeister said.

In a statement responding to lawmakers' announcement on Wednesday, education department Executive Director of Communications Carrie Burkhart said they would be "happy to visit" with lawmakers who want to better understand the Epic audit.

"We are always open to improvement, but we believe this group’s concerns may stem from a misunderstanding of what has occurred as it relates to the audit," Burkhart said in the statement.

Lawmakers requesting the audit were Reps. Jeff Boatman of Tulsa, Chad Caldwell of Enid, Denise Crosswhite Hader of Piedmont, Sheila Dills of Tusa, Tom Gann of Inola, Tommy Hardin of Madill, Mark Lepak of Claremore, Garry Mize of Guthrie, Carl Newton of Cherokee, Kevin West of Moore and Rande Worthen of Lawton; and Sens. Mark Allen of Spiro, David Bullard of Durant, Nathan Dahm of Broken Arrow, Julie Daniels of Bartlesville, Brent Howard of Altus, Casey Murdock of Felt, Joe Newhouse of Broken Arrow, Marty Quinn of Claremore, Dave Rader of Tulsa, Rob Standridge of Norman and Brenda Stanley of Midwest City.

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