OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – State Senator Ron Sharp spoke critically about Epic Charter Schools after a state audit found that Epic frequently mismanaged taxpayer money, and Epic representatives are pushing back against the audit’s findings with a lengthy rebuttal.
The battle between Sharp, an outgoing state senator, and Epic is well–documented. At one point, Epic sued Sharp for defamation and lost. Then Sharp lost his bid for re-election, which he blames on Epic.
Here is the 116-page audit that State Auditor Cindy Byrd released on Thursday:
Sharp says after the audit he feels vindicated.
“Definitely,” Sharp told KFOR. “All the problems I said Epic Charter School was manipulating their enrollment, it was clearly the auditor’s same response.”
Sharp says all he did was ask questions about how Epic was using tax payer dollars. He says the audit confirms everything he’s been saying.
“If you want to go private then I cannot question a thing you do as a private citizen, or if you want to run a private school,” Sharp said. “If you’re running a public school, every single dollar you spend is transparent and should be known to the public.”
Hours after the audit went public, Epic released a statement calling the audit “political theatrics.” Epic representatives accused Byrd of attacking parents’ rights to “choose the public school they think is best for them.”
“It seemed very frivolous for them to say the parents sure like the school, and the auditor is attacking us,” Sharp said. “Tell us exactly where the auditor is wrong.”
Epic issued a 132-page rebuttal to the audit on Friday. That rebuttal is as follows:
Byrd responded to Epic’s rebuttal with the following:
“Epic’s response is a smokescreen to, once again, distract taxpayers by changing the subject. This audit is not an assessment of the quality of their services, it’s an investigation into their finances. The facts provided in the audit speak for themselves. As I’ve said repeatedly, I am not against school choice. I support every child’s opportunity to get the best education possible. However, I can not support the abuse of taxpayer dollars.”CINDY BYRD, STATE AUDITOR & INSPECTOR
Other law makers agree that the misuse of tax dollars is concerning, but stress the audit is in no way an indictment of the students, parents or teachers.
“This is not an attack on you, this not an attack on your children. This is not an attack at all,” Representative Jacob Rosecrants from Norman told KFOR. “This is about where your tax dollars are going. We want to see it, we want you to know it.”
Sharp says now that the information is out there, he wants to see the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and Attorney General take action.
“We need to make sure that if there are past wrongs, they are corrected. If there were dollars placed in their for profit improperly, they need to be returned,” Sharp said. “If there is criminal activity, those individuals participating in criminal activity to defraud the tax payer of the State of Oklahoma need to be held accountable.”
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