[This article was originally delivered to subscribers of our Education Watch newsletter. Sign up now to receive Education Watch directly in your inbox.]

Last week, a judge set a court date in the criminal case against Epic Charter Schools’ co-founders and former chief financial officer.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Oct. 23-25 and Oct. 27 for David Chaney, Ben Harris and Josh Brock in Oklahoma County District Court. Preliminary hearings are like mini trials, with evidence and witnesses, that allow a judge to assess whether there’s enough of a case to move forward to trial.

Chaney and Harris founded Epic in 2011 and also owned Epic Youth Services, a private company that managed the school for a fee. Brock was chief financial officer of the school and the company.

The three men were arrested in June and charged with embezzlement, fraud and racketeering, which is basically setting up an illegal coordinated scheme to continuously collect a profit.

Investigators say they shifted millions of school dollars to company credit cards and used them to pay a lobbyist, fund personal expenses and vacations, and make political donations. The scheme cost the state more than $22 million and made the men millionaires off funds intended to educate children, according to the OSBI.

I’ve been covering Epic since 2016 and you can read all our coverage on our website. Questions, comments, story ideas? Reach out via email or direct message.

Also the State Board of Education meets at 9:30 a.m. Thursday. Follow me on Twitter for updates.

— Jennifer Palmer

Recommended Reading

  • Trent Smith, a businessman and former University of Oklahoma football player, resigned from the state Board of Education this month after serving two years. He was the board’s most senior member. [NonDoc]
  • The Legislature passed an education budget bill that would require the Education Department to seek joint approval from the Senate and House before forgoing federal grant funds. A longtime grant writer for the agency told Rep. Mark McBride the agency had not submitted a single grant application this year. [Tulsa World]
  • A majority of book challenges filed across the nation, most of which are on books about LGBTQ people or characters, were submitted by just 11 people. [The Washington Post]
  • School support staff, like aides and bus drivers, are essential to schools. Many are stuck making poverty-level wages. [The Hechinger Report]

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.

Support our publication

Every day we strive to produce journalism that matters — stories that strengthen accountability and transparency, provide value and resonate with readers like you.

This work is essential to a better-informed community and a healthy democracy. But it isn’t possible without your support.

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.