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Politics and Government

Trio of virtual charter school reform bills pass Oklahoma House of Representatives

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A pair of bills augmenting virtual charter school oversight passed in the Oklahoma House of Representatives Monday.

The bills by Rep. Sheila Dills, R-Tulsa, are designed to prevent issues found in State Auditor Cindy Byrd’s 2020 Audit of Epic Charter Schools. That audit said that the management company and its founders embezzled millions of taxpayer dollars before they were given the boot by Epic’s school board late last year.

  • HB 3643 creates more stringent reporting requirements for educational management organizations - like Epic Youth Services - that oversee charter schools.
  • HB 3644 strengthens oversight of charter school sponsors and boards.

"Charter schools play a vital role in providing school choice options for students and parents in Oklahoma," Dills said in a news release. "Still, we must ensure that taxpayer dollars are protected and that we have an accurate and transparent accounting of how they are spent. We also need policies that ensure the academic needs of students are being met."

Last week, Dills shepherded through HB 3645, which updates attendance requirements for virtual charter school students. Attendance counting has been an issue for charters in the past as they’ve dealt with so-called “ghost students.”

All three measures are now eligible to be heard in the state Senate.

Dills’ bills come as Epic continues its push for reforms. Last month, Epic’s superintendent announced the charter district intends to consolidate its virtual and blended charter schools, which are currently technically separate, though they share personnel and resources.

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