Oklahoma City, OK 73105
For Immediate Release: April 25, 2019
Sen. Dewayne Pemberton
Virtual charter financial transparency bill heads to
The Senate unanimously approved House Bill 1395 Wednesday
to improve the financial transparency and accountability of Oklahoma’s
five public virtual charter schools. Sen. Dewayne
Pemberton (R-Muskogee) and Rep. Sheila Dills (R-Tulsa) are the
authors of the bill, which will subject virtual charter schools
to same financial reporting requirements, financial audits, audit
procedures and audit requirements as traditional public school districts.
“Our state’s virtual charter schools are extremely popular
and are providing a crucial service for those students who can’t
succeed in a traditional learning environment. However, being that
these schools receive millions in both state and federal funds,
it’s crucial that taxpayers know how their money is being
spent,” Pemberton said. “Currently, as just one example,
laptops and other items are being purchased for virtual charter
students but there are no records as to who has that school property
and if the student recipients are even still enrolled. All of our
schools need to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. This will
level the playing field so that all of our public schools, whether
traditional or virtual, are being financially transparent and accountable
Pemberton explained that each for-profit state virtual charter school
is managed by an Educational Management Organization (EMO), which
receives a fee of 8-15% of profits. The EMO’s are Limited
Liability Companies (LLCs) and currently do not have to follow the
State Department of Education’s (SDE) cost accounting rules
under the Oklahoma Cost Accounting System (OCAS), which left around
$18 million in state funds unaccounted for in 2018 and that number
is growing quickly. The measure requires virtual charters to use
HB 1395 will also allow SDE and the State Auditor to conduct financial,
program and compliance audits of virtual charters.
Virtual charter schools will be required to start following the
same conflict of interest statutes as traditional public schools.
Virtual governing boards will also be required to complete the same
training as traditional public school board members do, which is
12 hours of classes in the first 15 months in office.
Finally, HB 1395 will put virtual charters and brick and mortar
charters under the same statutory teacher contract requirements
as traditional public schools. Pemberton noted this is necessary
to keep virtual charters from luring traditional public school teachers
away while they are under contract with a school district.
The next stop for HB 1395 is the Governor’s desk.
For more information, contact:
Sen. Pemberton: (405) 521-5533