Oklahoma 2020 legislation seeks to regulate virtual charter schools

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Several pieces of legislation have been filed for the upcoming 2020 session to limit funding and further regulate virtual charter schools.

The bills appear to be a direct response to Epic Charter Schools, the state’s largest virtual charter school, which is already under investigation for alleged fraud.

"Some of these are request bills from superintendent board members,” Senator Ron Sharp told News 4. “They are concerned about the amount of money that is being used for recruitment."

Epic reportedly spent more than $2,000,000 in advertising in 2019, something Sharp says is unacceptable.

"A school board could not ever do that kind of recruitment, because the public would be going absolutely crazy," Sharp said.

Senator Sharp has been critical of Epic in the past, and is currently being sued by Epic for defamation. Sharp personally filed two of the bills referencing virtual charter schools. One would prohibit all public schools from spending state funds on advertising. The other would require annual reviews of each school by the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board.

"It does not appear that the oversight of the Oklahoma State Department of Education and the statewide virtual charter school boards are actually doing their job in enforcement of our existing statutes," Sharp said.

In response to the proposed legislation, Epic sent News 4 the following statement:

"Like most large school districts, we are still reviewing education bills that have been filed as it is still very early in the process. We look forward to interacting with lawmakers during the session and connecting lawmakers to the families of our approximately 30,000 students to ensure public school choice, parents being in control of their children's education and equitable support of all public school students are the highest priorities."

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