The founders of Epic Virtual Charter School donated at least $145,000 total to dozens of candidates in this year’s elections. The donations outpaced those from the Oklahoma Education Association PAC and have come amid continuing dramatic growth in enrollment at the online school.
Epic Charter Schools posted a dramatic growth of more than 4,000 students over last year, reaching more than 13,000 enrollment. The virtual charter school is drawing students away from traditional public schools despite concerns over rapid growth and lower academic measures.
Virtual charter schools will have to start tracking student attendance in accordance with a new law signed Friday by Gov. Mary Fallin. The proposal arose after Oklahoma Watch revealed last year that all five of Oklahoma’s virtual charter schools reported between 98 and 100 percent attendance last year. Two reported 100 percent.
Two days after voting to pursue hiring a public relations firm to market the online schools sponsored by the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board, the agency director says the project may be scrapped.
Teachers at Epic Charter Schools can earn up to their base pay in bonuses, making them some of the highest-paid teachers in the state. But students at the virtual school often underperform their public-school peers.
New campaign finance reports reveal for the first time the primary funders behind opposition to last year’s state question proposing a 1-cent sales tax for education. The reports also show that backers of the penny tax, which was shot down by voters in November, outspent their opposition more than seven to one.
Epic Charter Schools is growing at lightning speed, which its leaders say is proof of its effectiveness. But the trend has raised questions about student turnover and evokes national concerns about the low academic performance of rapidly growing virtual charter schools.
Three years after the governor ordered an investigation into the state’s largest virtual charter school, no charges have been filed. But after an inquiry by a reporter, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation said it is now “re-interviewing” people in connection with the probe.