Epic Charter Schools Avoid Probation Status Despite Recommendation by Education Department Counsel
Epic Charter Schools escaped having its accreditation lowered to probation status this week as the State Board of Education on Thursday chose not to act on its attorney’s recommendation.
Oklahoma State Department of Education General Counsel Brad Clark laid out for the board evidence of what he described as years of non-responsiveness and non-compliance when it comes to financial requirements, along with new information about deficiencies in Epic’s federally funded programs for students in special education, who are homeless or who are learning English.
State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister told the board Epic’s inability to fulfill requirements placed on all schools should be met with strong action.
"If we are talking about a school board of the largest school district in the state likely to receive a quarter of a billion dollars of public school funding this year and they need hand holding? That’s why we are talking about putting you on notice that you are not in good standing, things have to change and probation would be appropriate," Hofmeister said.
Epic’s attorney, Bill Hickman, asked the board for a complete accounting of deficiencies.
"We would respectfully ask that the board not take any action at this time to give us some time to continue to work on these issues, to meet with the State department of Education … and to ensure that we are provided a fair and equitable process through these discussions," Hickman said.
Board member Estela Hernandez agreed problems must be communicated to Epic for them to address.
"But for us to be so irresponsible and tell 60,000 students, 'We don’t know where you may land in 2021, in the middle of a pandemic, we’re going to turn this political and we’re going to make sure that everyone — and that we dismantle the largest school district in the state of Oklahoma,'" Hernandez said.
It would take additional board action after probation for Epic to lose accreditation and close.
The board ultimately asked Clark to send Epic a list of all deficiencies and tabled discussion of sanctions.
Last month, the board demanded Epic repay $11.2 million a state audit indicated was misused. Epic is disputing the audit's findings.