May 7, 2021

Grand Jury Hopes Epic Report Will ‘Sound the Alarm’

In July of 2019, shortly after the governor called for the audit of Epic Charter Schools and details of an Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation probe became public, state Superintendent Joy Hofmeister gathered with several reporters outside a Board of Education meeting.

With accusations of embezzlement and misuse of public dollars swirling, along with disturbing information I had uncovered about manipulation of student enrollment at the school, I wanted to know whether Epic would receive its 2019-20 state aid allocation.

Hofmeister said yes, funding and accreditation of Epic would be handled like “business as usual.”

Of course, Epic has continued to grow at a meteoric pace, topping 60,000 students last year amid the pandemic (the latest count was down to closer to 57,000 students.) But a new report issued Thursday by the multicounty grand jury, which has been investigating Epic since October, begs the same question I had in 2019: is the state going to allocate funds to the school for another school year despite the allegations?

The grand jury investigation continues, but it released an interim report now so policymakers and oversight agencies can consider the issues before the next fiscal year. I delve into the recommendations from the report in my latest story.

This weekend, I’m planning to take my two middle schoolers to visit the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics, or OSSM. Follow me on Twitter (@jpalmerOKC) for photos of our visit.

— Jennifer Palmer

An Epic Charter School administrative office building is seen on 122nd Street in northwest Oklahoma City. (Whitney Bryen/Oklahoma Watch)

Grand Jury: Epic Charter School ‘system ripe for fraud’

The state’s multicounty grand jury delivered a message to the public this week: demand more transparency and accountability of Epic Charter Schools, the state’s largest online charter school system. 

Around the web

  • How much money will Oklahoma school districts get from the American Rescue Plan? [KGOU]
  • Oklahoma is investing $14 million in summer learning to recover from the disruption of the pandemic. [The Oklahoman]
  • Remote learning isn’t going away. Will it create separate — and unequal — school systems? [Education Week]
  • Student voice: Once schools reopen fully, some lessons from distance learning will endure. [The Hechinger Report]

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