Dills Applauds Epic Severance with Management Company


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OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Sheila Dills, R-Tulsa, today praised the decision by Epic Charter Schools’ Board of Directors to cut ties between Epic One on One and Epic Blended and their for-profit educational management organizations (EMOs).

 

Epic’s seven-member board of education unanimously approved a mutual termination agreement, effective July 1, to end its contract with Epic Youth Services.

 

“It is refreshing to see the largest school district in the State make prudent decisions that put students first,” Dills said. “This gives me a renewed sense of hope that more of the funds appropriated by the Legislature to Epic will be spent as intended.”

 

Epic Charter Schools operates currently as two separate entities – Epic One on One, a virtual charter school, and Epic Blended, which combines in-person and virtual learning. Dills said she was just made aware the board’s actions applied to both entities.

 

Dills recently carried legislation that would have improved financial oversight and enforced best practices for all charter schools. House Bill 2966 is authored by House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka. The House passed the bill Monday. It was a revision of legislation Dills proposed earlier this session.

 

The accountability measure addresses concerns made public in a recent multicounty grand jury report and in a state auditor’s report released earlier this year. The reports encouraged a call to action by the Legislature to address loopholes in state statute regarding oversight of public state charter schools, charter sponsors and educational management organizations. The grand jury requested action by July 1, the beginning of the next fiscal year.

 

“I am proud of my House colleagues for the passage of House Bill 2966 just this week, but we are only one of three branches of government, and we can’t do the work of the people alone on this issue. House Bill 2966 would provide in law a framework with safeguards to help ensure the protection against the mismanagement of funds with educational management companies and charter schools. It would provide guidance and structure for the schools, their sponsors and educational management organizations so each would clearly know their responsibilities.  

 

“Epics decision to sever ties with Epic Youth Services is a positive step for the school, but if the Legislature had put the safeguards into place when this educational structure began a decade ago, we wouldn’t have these problems. We need to ensure this never happens again.”

 

Dills said Oklahoma’s laws supporting charter school sponsors currently are very lax. National organizations as well as charter school advocates in Oklahoma have expressed concern to her over the lack of sponsor support through state laws. Among other important components, HB 2966 would have established a performance evaluation framework that would have required a sponsor to evaluate schools annually. The framework would include fiscal responsibility measures and ensure schools abide by state and Internal Revenue Service laws.

 

Dills said statutory changes are needed to protect taxpayers regardless of judicial outcomes as the judicial process could take a very long time. She said the measure also should give assurance to the parents that choose charter schools for their children that public money is being spent appropriately and in the best interest of the student.