Epic Recruiting

An Oklahoma virtual charter school used shady (though legal) tactics to recruit teachers … and there’s more. The Enid News & Eagle reports:

Davis never signed up with Epic for any emails, and he had never given them his home address. Turns out, Epic had acquired his contact information, and that of thousands of other certified public school teachers across the state, through different means.

On April 5, Epic spokeswoman Shelly Hickman sent an open records request to the Oklahoma State Department of Education asking for physical addresses of every person certified to teach in the state of Oklahoma. 

Why might this matter to Tennessee? Because Governor Bill Lee was successful in securing passage of legislation creating an independent state charter authorizer. It’s the type of body that could enable groups like Epic to engage in the same sort of aggressive recruiting tactics. Additionally, current lawsuits in Tennessee seem likely to end up forcing Nashville and Memphis to turn over student data to charter operators.

Here’s more about Epic:

Last week Oklahoma Watch published a story in which “at least seven former teachers” claimed Epic administrators had been “allowing, encouraging or pressuring” teachers to withdraw poor-performing students in order to boost employee bonus pay. The school, in a response written by two former journalists who’ve been hired by Epic to teach journalism, denied the allegations. Oklahoma Watch executive editor David Fritze published a note on Monday saying the organization stands by its reporting.


Some students were allegedly enrolled at Epic and various private schools simultaneously, something that could violate the law as public funds cannot be used to aid private schools. Epic receives tens of millions of dollars each year in state funds. It is operated by Epic Youth Services, a for-profit that collects a 10 percent cut of the school’s revenues each year.

Here you have a virtual charter school set up as a non-profit and being used as a conduit to funnel state dollars to a private entity. This scenario should be cause for concern for Tennessee policymakers and school boards alike.

The bottom line: Entities like Epic not only carry significant cost to local districts, but they also work to turn public money into private profits.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

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