In the wake of a state audit of Oklahoma’s largest charter school, the State Board of Education is demanding it repay funds members say were misused.
After nearly two hours in executive session on Monday, the board unanimously voted to demand Epic Charter Schools pay back $11,235,919 in total within 60 days of receiving work papers from the state auditor.
The education board heard a summary of the audit’s findings from and asked questions of three state auditor’s office staff before deliberating. Much of the open meeting discussion focused on the lack of transparency with Epic’s learning fund, its use of state funds to support operations in California and misreporting of administrative costs.
Education board member Carlisha Williams Bradley said she knows the ins and outs of charter school management from leading Tulsa Legacy Charter school.
"This is not normal. This is not OK. And I do think that it requires action of this board and body to say that this is not acceptable," Williams Bradley said.
Special Investigative Unit Audit Manager Brenda Holt told the board of education Epic offered significant pushback from the outset of the state's audit, forcing auditors to subpoena information after some time.
"That is not normal. We do issue subpoenas, but not for all documentation. It was just at this point, because of the legal counsel that was put between us and most of the Epic employees and records — not most, but all — it was just easier to do the subpoena process. That way we had tracking and accountability," Holt said.
In statements, Epic officials have said they dispute the auditor's findings.
Epic’s time in the spotlight is not over. The state’s investigation continues with Attorney General Mike Hunter appointing a special counsel on Monday to review the audit. Lawmakers are asking for more information about the audit, with two of them attending the State Board of Education meeting.
And Epic's contract is on the state virtual charter school board’s agenda on Tuesday for possible termination.