OKLAHOMA CITY – Members of the House Democratic Education Policy Group released the following statements in response to State Auditor Cindy Byrd’s findings from an investigative audit into Epic Youth Services.
Each of the lawmakers responding to Auditor Byrd’s findings are former Oklahoma public school educators.
“As we have said from the beginning, our concern has never been about our teachers that work for Epic,” said State Rep. Melissa Provenzano, D-Tulsa. “Our concerns have always been upstream. Were Oklahoma tax dollars being spent on our students? Today it appears we found out they were not.”
“As somebody who believes in accountability and transparency, hearing that it was such a struggle to get information for this audit from Epic Youth Services is disheartening,” said State Rep. Jacob Rosecrants, D-Norman. “While I believe there is a place in our state for virtual charter schools, I believe it is our place to ensure that the taxpayer knows exactly how and on what their money is spent.”
“It is completely inappropriate to allow $125 million meant for Oklahoma public school students to be managed outside the purview of Oklahoma taxpayers,” said State Rep. John Waldron, D-Tulsa. “We owe our citizens a thorough accounting just as we owe all our public school students a quality education.”
“Today we learned that one person is responsible for managing funds on both the public and private side of the business,” said State Rep. Trish Ranson, D-Stillwater. “This lack of accountability and oversight is especially alarming as Epic has now grown to the state’s largest school district.”
Lawmakers from the House Democratic Education Policy Group first started voicing concerns regarding Epic’s business practices more than a year ago. Provenzano said this about the school in July of 2019:
“This school has consistently demonstrated questionable actions in how money is spent (most often not directly on students), financial decisions, the way attendance is calculated, and their questionable record keeping. Given the strict oversight the state Department of Education has for brick-and-mortar schools, I am eager for their response to this situation and their plans to keep this from ever happening again.”