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Epic Charter Schools must repay $11.2M in taxpayer funding

October 13, 2020 GMT

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma State Board of Education voted unanimously to demand Epic Charter Schools to pay $11.2 million in state funds that auditors say was illegally used and falsely classified in financial reports.

The state school board’s vote on Monday demands Epic to repay the millions of dollars spent on administrators that were supposed to support students and teachers, within 60 days of receiving notice.

The state board total of $11.2 million they aim to recoup comes from $8.3 million in misreported salaries and $2.7 million wrongfully paid to Epic Youth Services — with the addition of $203,000 in taxpayer funds illegally transferred to Epic’s charter school in California.

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On Oct. 2, State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd released the first part of the audit of Epic, following a directive from Gov. Kevin Stitt to investigate the school’s finances and “all related entities.”

Epic exceeded the state-mandated limit on administrative costs by overspending on salaries and payments to Epic Youth Services, auditors said. The school reportedly covered it up by reclassifying certain expenditures as non-administrative in financial reports to the Oklahoma State Department of Education.

State schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said the findings were “very significant and alarming” during Monday’s board meeting.

“We have, as a state board, a duty to recoup those funds,” Hofmeister said.

Epic has been under investigation since last year by state and federal officials for embezzling millions in state funds by illegally inflating student enrollment counts.

Epic denies any wrongdoing and disputes the audit’s findings. Superintendent Bart Banfield said the school intends to “debunk” the audit report by reviewing the auditors’ calculations.