OKLAHOMA CITY – State Reps. Rhonda Baker, R-Yukon, and Mark McBride, R-Moore, today announced their committees will receive testimony later this month from the state auditor concerning Epic Charter Schools.
Baker is the chair of the House Common Education Committee. McBride is chair of the House Appropriations & Budget Subcommittee for Education. Baker and McBride met with State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd shortly after the release of her office’s audit of Epic Charter Schools earlier this month to discuss the need for legislative hearings on the findings.
“Legislators must be fully informed about the state auditor’s findings,” Baker said. “Our job is to write and review public policy, and these concerning findings have given us much to consider.”
Byrd’s 120-page audit, which was requested by Gov. Kevin Stitt, outlines concerns with how Epic Charter Schools has handled cost accounting and student enrollment figures.
“This is about taxpayer dollars, plain and simple,” McBride said. “It is the Legislature’s job to ensure no abuse of taxpayer dollars by any entity, whether it is a state agency, a public school or a state-funded charter school. We need to know if existing fiscal accountability mechanisms were insufficient and what legislation may need to be considered as a result.”
Byrd will present findings and answer questions at a public joint hearing Oct. 21 of the House Common Education and House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee for Education.
Baker and McBride jointly stated: “These hearings are not about determining guilt or innocence because that is the responsibility of law enforcement, not legislators. These hearings are not about school choice or Epic’s learning model because those are not the issues in this audit. These hearings are about gathering information for policymaking. We owe it to the thousands of Oklahomans who favor learning models like these to ensure the tax dollars provided for this purpose are used appropriately for the benefit of students and families.”
The Oklahoma State Board of Education is holding a special meeting today to address the audit, and the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board is scheduled to meet Tuesday to discuss issues related to the audit. The lawmakers said they will be paying attention to the comments and recommendations from both boards as they approach their hearing Oct. 21.