This article was originally delivered to subscribers of our Education Watch newsletter. Sign up now to receive Education Watch directly in your inbox.
New developments occurred this week in the criminal case against Epic Charter Schools co-founders Ben Harris and David Chaney and their longtime chief financial officer, Josh Brock.
Attorney General Gentner Drummond, who took over prosecution of the case in January, added four new charges, including an additional count of embezzlement and money laundering.
Harris and Chaney founded Epic Charter Schools, the state’s largest online charter school, in 2011 and also operated Epic Youth Services, a for-profit company contracted to manage the school.
Harris, Chaney and Brock were arrested in June 2022 and accused of using school funds for personal gain, including political campaign donations, a lobbyist, and personal expenses like vacations. Investigators allege the men ran a criminal enterprise using the online charter school and a for-profit company, Epic Youth Services, to bilk the state out of at least $22 million.
In one of the new charges, filed Oct. 4, prosecutors say the men transferred money from Epic Youth Services to a shell company called Edtech, LLC, then transferred the money to themselves to falsely justify fraudulent management fee invoices, according to the court documents.
Several of the other new charges are related to the alleged false invoices, including using a computer to prepare the invoices and submitting them to the state.
Prosecutors are expected to detail their evidence to support the charges in a week-long preliminary hearing now scheduled to start Jan. 22. The hearing was set to start Monday but the judge agreed to give Chaney, Harris and Brock more time.
Catch up on our previous coverage of Epic dating back to 2016 here.
— Jennifer Palmer
- Ringling football coach charged with a misdemeanor following complaints that he harassed and bullied players, including calling them racist and homophobic slurs and extreme and embarrassing punishments. [The Oklahoman]
- The head football coach in Kingfisher was charged with felony child neglect, accused of permitting or ignoring fights among players known as “The Ring” in the locker room. [The Oklahoman]
- Book publisher Scholastic is separating titles dealing with race, gender and sexuality in response to state laws restricting content in schools. [The New York Times]
- School districts throw away millions of dollars on educational technology. Utah has a better way. [The Hechinger Report]
New on Oklahoma Watch
Oklahoma donors have contributed $617,656 to former president Donald Trump’s campaign, more than three times the amount of any other candidate.
Six projects were funded with Gov. Kevin Stitt’s second round of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, or GEER. The largest of those dedicated $11 million to purchase classroom supplies for thousands of Oklahoma teachers through DonorsChoose, an online platform where teachers post needs and donors select projects to donate to.
Help Us Make a Difference
Oklahoma needs high-quality investigative journalism. That is our mission at Oklahoma Watch. We produce stories that hold government and public officials accountable and that make transparent what some prefer to keep secret. We depend on financial support from readers like you to sustain our coverage. Help us make a difference.