Epic Charter Schools’ for-profit management company has refused to provide its financial records to the state auditor’s office, which has now asked a judge to intervene.
The records sought by three subpoenas, dating back to October 2019, have not been supplied, according to a motion filed in Oklahoma County District Court by the state Attorney General’s Office on Thursday. Those records include access to email accounts, credit card statements, bank statements, a vendor list and other information.
Many of the records relate to the school’s “learning fund,” a portion of each student’s state funding that is set aside to be used on curriculum, technology items and extracurricular activities. Those funds are transferred to Epic Youth Services, which manages the online charter school, and totaled approximately $42 million from 2011 to 2019, according to the court filing.
An attorney for Epic Youth Services did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
The state auditor began an investigative audit into Epic Charter Schools and its related entities, including Epic Youth Services, in July at the request of Gov. Kevin Stitt and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister.
The auditor first tried to obtain the records through a records request. Epic Youth Services denies the records are public because it is a private entity, according to the court filing.
After five months and three subpoenas – filed in October, November and February – the state Attorney General filed the motion to compel, asking a judge to force Epic Youth Services to hand over the information to the auditor.
A criminal investigation by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is ongoing.
Epic is the only virtual school in Oklahoma that uses a “learning fund.” It’s a big recruitment tool to attract students, and families who refer new students are rewarded with an additional deposit into their student’s fund.
Epic makes at least $1,000 available to each student annually in the student’s learning fund. Dollars are deducted for their choice of curriculum and for a plethora of other items such as laptops and iPads, science kits and craft supplies, soccer club fees, horseback riding lessons, gymnastics and summer camps.
Parents don’t receive the money directly but instead request a purchase from Epic. Epic transfers the money to Epic Youth Services, according to the court filing, which then pays the vendors directly. There are more than 1,200 learning-fund vendors.
Investigators have accused Epic of receiving state funds for home-school and private school students who received the learning fund but no actual instruction from Epic.