June 15, 2021

Epic Charter Schools needs to makes changes, Oklahoma grand jury says

The state’s multicounty grand jury on Thursday called for the board of Epic Charter Schools…

The state’s multicounty grand jury on Thursday called for the board of Epic Charter Schools to “extricate itself from its incestuous relationship” with a private management company formed by Epic’s co-founders.

Grand jurors issued a 25-page interim report as they continue to investigate Epic and Epic Youth Services, the company that has run the school system since its founding.

“It is hoped changes will allow the parents to have confidence in a public school motivated by a desire to improve education outcomes and not by profit,” the grand jury stated. “The citizens of Oklahoma demand more. The students in Oklahoma deserve better.”

Epic has limited the company’s authority over the school, but both entities have not fully cut ties with each other. The private company no longer has access to school bank accounts and doesn’t supervise any school employees.

“Epic’s Board of Education has since October 2020 made significant corrective actions, including Epic Youth Services no longer operationally or financially managing or controlling the school,” said Shelly Hickman, Epic’s assistant superintendent of communications.

Epic is the largest public school system in Oklahoma with about 55,000 students.

Oklahoma's multicounty grand jury on Thursday called for the board of Epic Charter Schools to "extricate itself from its incestuous relationship" with a private management company formed by Epic's co-founders.

Management fees generated millions for Epic’s founders

Epic’s co-founders, David Chaney and Ben Harris, own the company, which handled day-to-day operations at the school and earned 10% of Epic’s annual funding as a management fee. That has generated more than $45.9 million for Chaney and Harris since 2015, the grand jury reported.

“This incestuous relationship is not consistent with the purpose of a public charter school nor conducive to providing transparency and accountability in the expenditure in public funds,” the grand jury stated.