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Senate Review

 

November 5, 2020

I'm so relieved that additional information is coming forth justifying my concerns about Epic Charter Schools. The state's audit revealed everything I've been trying to point out and address with all my bills, and more information is

In March 2019, I reached out to the Department of Education to gather information regarding inflated enrollment numbers by Epic Blended Charter School. They turned in enrollment numbers for students they didn't serve but received substantial state money for those "ghost" students.

Requesting such information is my right and duty as a state senator, but they ignored me until June when they tried to charge me $850 for the information. I just wanted to know why the agency wasn't addressing the suspicious discrepancy in the school's state funding. 

In a July 2019 article, I pointed out the discrepancy in attendance numbers and that Epic's assistant superintendent had verified my suspicions in a June 24, 2019 email to me that they didn't serve all the grade levels. Yet financial records show they were receiving state funds for those "ghost" students.

Their responses to my article raised even more questions. Do a search of Epic-related stories and notice how they always have an answer for public concerns, but that answer changes every time. They have gone so far as to serve me with a cease and desist and sued me for doing my job, but legislators are protected from such frivolous lawsuits so it was thrown out and they may have to pay a hefty cost for their poor judgment. The Oklahoma County District Court denied Community Strategies' appeal for a new trial on fees and sanctions and struck the hearing set for Oct. 27. Community Strategies still has an appeal pending in the Oklahoma State Supreme Court.

Oklahoma has a strong anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) law known as the Citizens Participation Act, which protects citizens from having to fear retribution when exercising their First Amendment rights to criticize or question people, groups or situations. Public officials are specifically protected as it is our job to hold all entities that receive state funds accountable for their actions. We must be protected from intimidation; otherwise, special interest groups would run our government.

The State Auditor verified my concerns on October 1, 2020 about the enrollment and attendance policies of Epic Blended Charter School. 

Public schools shouldn't be in the business of making money since they're supported by public funds. The main problem seems to be Epic needs to decide if they want to be a public school supported by government funds or a for-profit private school charging tuition. The audit found discrepancies in the management of government funds regarding how those funds were funneled through their private and nonprofit companies. As the state auditor said she's "seen a lot of fraud in her 23 years, and this situation is deeply concerning." 

These are your tax dollars. Demand transparency and accountability. As your legislator, I have fought endlessly to require them to follow state law. I've been

You received nearly 30 untruthful mailers from 501(c)(4) social welfare groups, known as dark money, that don't exist in Oklahoma as claimed on the mailers, and are part of ongoing investigations to find who paid for them.

The virtual charter school also possibly violated state ethics rules when they used Epic's parent database, which is state property, and, more than likely, a computer bought with state funds to campaign against me in a mass email days before the runoff election. State entities cannot use state property, employees or resources to campaign or persuade voters.

So, was this nasty coordinated campaign and everything that has happened to me in the last couple of years just a coincidence? We'll let the state and federal investigations decipher that.

If you have any questions or I can be of any assistance, please don't hesitate to contact me at [email protected] or call me at (405) 521-5539.

 

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