An Epic advertisement at an Oklahoma City mall.

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact

Epic Virtual Charter Schools’ oversight board votes to begin contract termination process

Virtual charter behemoth will have a chance to dispute investigation early next year

  • Robby Korth

Oklahoma’s Statewide Virtual Charter School Board started the process to end its contract and support for Epic Virtual Charter Schools Tuesday afternoon.

The board voted 3-1 with one abstention to begin the termination process of Epic’s contract with the state. That starts what will prove to be a lengthy process to close the school.

In the meantime, board chairman John Harrington pleaded with the 61,000 students and their families who attend Epic, not to worry.

“Despite this present difficulty, your school is still in session, your homework assignments are still due and your tests still need to be graded,” he said. “That is not changing today.”

But it could change soon.

Assistant attorney general Marie Schuble said she intends to prove Epic broke state laws, handled money inappropriately and didn’t cooperate with a state audit. At a termination hearing early next year Epic will get the chance to defend itself.

In a Twitter statement Tuesday, Epic again said it’s not being treated fairly by the state.

“So far, only one side of the story has been allowed to be told,” Superintendent Bart Banfield said in the statement. “We are confident that once we have the audit work papers and have as much opportunity to present our side of the audit as the State Auditor has provided, we will prevail for our more than 2,100 employees and the families of our more than 60,000 students.”

The virtual charter has been under a criminal investigation by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation since last year.

The embattled school is accused of improperly reporting how it spent taxpayer money, meaning the state overpaid the school. Millions of dollars have been funneled from its  state appropriation to the school’s management company, owned by its founders.

As a result, Epic was asked to repay $11.2 million dollars by the State Board of Education Monday.  Additionally, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter appointed special counsel Melissa McLawhorn Houston to review the auditor’s report and make determinations about criminal charges.