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State education board demands $11.2 million back from Epic Charter Schools over state audit findings | Education

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Holt began her presentation by setting the record straight on two issues she said have been commonly mischaracterized in public discourse since the release of the state audit report a couple of weeks ago.

She said Gov. Kevin Stitt’s charge to State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd included the task of reviewing annual audits on Epic from the previous three years, but it did not limit the scope of the forensic audit as a whole to any such time period.

In all, $125.2 million of the $458 million allocated to Epic Charter Schools for educating students the past six years was found to have ended up in the coffers of Epic Youth Services, a for-profit charter school management company that has reportedly made millionaires of school co-founders Ben Harris and David Chaney.

“We ask for annual appropriations totaling approximately $3 billion and $125 million works out to about 4.1%,” said state board member Kurt Bollenbach, of Kingfisher. “Are you saying I do not have access to or oversight of 4.1% of the funds that come through this department?“

Holt responded: “Yes.”

Holt described how Epic and its affiliates armed themselves with lawyers to make the state auditors’ task of interviewing school personnel and scrutinizing records particularly difficult.

So difficult in fact that 63% of the funds turned over to EYS — nearly $80 million budgeted for students’ learning needs — remains out of reach of the State Auditor’s Office and outside public scrutiny.

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