OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A move by the board that governs Epic Charter Schools could prevent a looming termination hearing of their all-virtual branch, but the push to improve transparency stops short of revealing years of past records that have come under harsh scrutiny by the state auditor in the past year.
The decision was made overnight. Just after midnight, board members voted to make future records of the school’s Learning Fund public, beginning over the summer.
That means the $79.3 million-worth of taxpayer dollars that remains under investigation by the state auditor and other agencies for possible embezzlement will not be included.
The Learning Fund is one of two funds controlled by Epic’s private branch, Epic Youth Services. It consists of $1,000 per student. Because EYS is a private company, Epic officials argue its records are not required to be disclosed.
But State Auditor Cindy Byrd said they have a legal responsibility to prove to the school board how that $1,000 per child was spent.
Through her investigation, Byrd said her team found records showing that about $203,000 of Oklahoma tax-payer dollars were illegally sent from the Learning Fund to Epic’s for-profit operation in California.
A fight over those records is still tied up in court.
Shelly Hickman, the Epic assistant superintendent, sent KFOR a statement Wednesday that said, “The Learning Fund was privately managed. That has never been a secret. We don’t have power to produce private records of a company with whom we contracted. What our Board does have the power to do is move to make the Learning Fund publicly managed, and it took that action last night.”
The board’s decision was made in an effort to stop termination proceedings by the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board, a termination hearing set for May 12-13.
Whether the move will be enough for the Virtual School Board to find them in compliance of the contract remains to be seen.