Gov. Stitt announces first-ever audit of Oklahoma State Department of Education; State Supt. calls request ‘attack’ on public education

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Oklahoma State Department of Education

Oklahoma State Department of Education

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — Governor Kevin Stitt announced Thursday he has submitted a request to the Oklahoma Auditor and Inspector’s Office for the first full audit of the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) following evidence of misuse of funds found in the audit of EPIC Charter Schools.

Officials with the governors office say the request specifically demands identification of all revenue sources flowing into OSDE through federal funds, state appropriations, taxes and fees to determine whether OSDE and Oklahoma school districts are complying with financial transaction reporting requirements.

“I promised Oklahomans that as governor I would clean up state government to make it more transparent and accountable and I am keeping that promise,” said Governor Stitt. “As we make record investments in our public education system, students and parents deserve to know that their schools are spending our tax dollars appropriately and in accordance with the law.”

In November 2020, 22 GOP legislators asked Governor Stitt to request a full investigative audit of the Oklahoma State Department of Education after State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd found evidence of misuse of funds during an audit of EPIC Charter Schools.

“One of the most serious issues contained in the auditor’s report, however, does not deal with EPIC specifically. Throughout the report, the auditor notes the failure of the [OSDE] to properly monitor the Oklahoma Cost Accounting System (OCAS) for compliance. Specifically, the state auditor states that [OSDE] has ‘no process in place to evaluate actual compliance with the written policies and procedures, or with applicable laws, statutes, or Administrative Rules.’ The auditor goes on to state that ‘there is virtually no follow-up or on-site review conducted by [OSDE] as it relates to the actual records underlying the data reported.

If the state auditor is correct in her assessment that the State Department of Education repeatedly neglected its responsibility to ensure compliance with OCAS and other required reports, one must ask if this dereliction of duty was confined solely to EPIC Charter Schools or if it permeates throughout our public education system. If [OSDE] did in fact routinely fail to perform its regulatory duties, this could result in the discovery of hundreds of millions of dollars of misused funds.”

Letter to Gov. Stitt

Brenda Holt, the director of the EPIC Audit, told the board in Oct. 2020 that – by her count – EPIC owes the state more than $11 million for payroll overages, administration costs, and sending $200,000 Oklahoma tax payer dollars to California to start a school there.

The audit concluded the Oklahoma State Department of Education should provide better oversight of entities receiving funds.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister today made the following remarks after Gov. Kevin Stitt announced his audit request of the Oklahoma State Department of Education.

“The Governor’s call for an audit is yet another attack on Oklahoma’s public education system. 
 
As the Governor should already know, the State Department of Education has undergone more than 20 financial, compliance and programmatic review audits by the state auditor’s office in the last 6-1/2 years. Additionally, the Governor’s hand-picked Secretary of Education approves every agency expenditure over $25,000 on a weekly basis. Every single spending request has been personally approved by Secretary Ryan Walters. 
 
At a time during which there are serious audits we have requested which potentially involve criminal activity, and while 541 school districts are struggling to find normalcy during a pandemic, the Governor’s attack on public education couldn’t be worse timing for students, families, teachers and taxpayers.”

Joy Hofmeister

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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