Epic Charter Schools ends contract with management company

May 27, 2021 GMT

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — The governing board of a virtual charter school that has grown to become the largest public school in Oklahoma voted to end its contract with the for-profit school management company owned by its co-founders.

Epic Charter Schools’ seven-member board of education unanimously approved a mutual termination agreement Wednesday, declaring its independence from Epic Youth Service, effective July 1.

“This school has outgrown its management company, which is why we did what we did today, ” said newly seated board Chair Paul Campbell.

In a separate vote, Epic’s governing board also severed all ties to Epic subsidiary Community Strategies-CA LLC, the Tulsa World reported.

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State and federal officials have been investigating since last year for allegedly embezzling millions in state funds by illegally inflating student enrollment counts. Among the biggest concerns of state investigators and a grand jury is Epic Youth Services, which has received a 10% management fee paid for by public funds.

A state audit of Epic released in October revealed lax school board oversight, including that one of every four taxpayer dollars Epic had received went to Epic Youth Services. The state auditor found that 63% of those taxpayer dollars — nearly $80 million budgeted for students’ learning needs — had been shielded from all public or auditor scrutiny. The auditor is still battling in court to get access to those spending records.

The audit also found the company “improperly transferred” $203,000 in state taxpayer dollars from the Oklahoma schools’ student Learning Fund account to help with start-up expenses for expanding its operations into California.

At the conclusion of Wednesday’s meeting, former board Chair and Tulsa attorney, Doug Scott, resigned.

“It’s time for me to step down. It’s time for this school to close a chapter and start a new one, and that includes me moving on,” said Scott.

Fueled by skyrocketing enrollment amid the coronavirus pandemic that forced closures of traditional districts, Epic Charter Schools has grown to become the largest district in the state, with more than 60,000 students. From 2015 to 2020, the school received more than $458 million in state and federal funds.