Epic Charter Schools on Tuesday issued a news release and social media posts for their teachers and parents declaring that a newly issued audit by state education officials proved they are in “full federal compliance” with requirements for low-income and special education students.
But officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Education said it was only “routine monitoring,” not an audit, that did not cover the topic of special education — and the letter Epic used to bolster its claim was a form letter sent to all school districts subject to such monitoring.
“This is not related to the OIG’s investigation,” said Deana Silk, a spokeswoman at the state Department of Education, referring to the U.S. Department of Education’s law enforcement arm, called the Office of Inspector General.
“This is a routine monitoring review, not an audit, performed at each school at least once every three years. Of the roughly 150 sites monitored this year, 10 were selected for onsite monitoring. By the way, this monitoring review is for Title I programs, not special education.”
Epic Superintendent and Co-founder David Chaney said in the news release: “This audit affirms our commitment to our kids and verifies what we have been saying all along. We have always followed state and federal law, and we will continue to do so.”
Epic is the operator of the state’s largest virtual charter school, as well as two centers in Tulsa and Oklahoma City that blend online and in-person learning.
In late February, the Tulsa World was the first to report that the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is once again investigating Epic, according to Beth Green, an assistant special agent in charge at OSBI.
And public records obtained by the Tulsa World from Tulsa Public Schools under the Oklahoma Open Records Act indicate that OIG investigators appeared to be looking into widespread allegations of Epic Charter Schools students being dually enrolled in private schools.
TPS said investigators from OIG visited in summer 2018 and sought and received documents about the federal dollars TPS oversees for qualifying students at a few local private schools.
Monday’s news release by Epic cited the Tulsa World’s February report and stated that “Epic has not been contacted by investigators and no federal agency has confirmed a probe of Epic is ongoing.”
An OIG spokeswoman said that office does not confirm or deny active investigations but releases reports after completion.