OSDE, Virtual Board Records Show State Senator Sharp Lying about EPIC
EPIC to request Senate leadership to investigate
OKLAHOMA CITY - Records from the
Oklahoma Department of Education
Statewide Virtual Charter Schools Board
Executive Director clearly indicate that State Sen. Ron Sharp’s recent media blitz against EPIC shows the state senator to be willfully lying about Oklahoma’s largest charter school and legal guidance provided to him by two state agencies.
As a result, the school will provide the information it has obtained, and provided to news media as attachments to this press release, to Oklahoma Senate leadership, asking the matter be fully investigated.
“The most valuable currency an elected official has with the public it serves is his or her integrity and their honesty. The records obtained by EPIC from the two state agencies who regulate us clearly show this elected official’s integrity and honesty should be much more scrutinized,” said Shelly Hickman, EPIC Assistant Superintendent of Communications.
On the evening of Aug. 26,
Sharp issued a news release
with the headline: “Virtual Charter School Board verifies EPIC is not following law regarding enrollment reporting.” Sharp used Senate staff, and thus taxpayer resources, to distribute the release. That evening and in the week that has followed, several news outlets have carried his “news.”
The problem? The contents of the release were not true and Sharp knew it.
In a prior letter to EPIC’s attorney
, Wilkinson also said, “The Statewide Virtual Charter School Board has not met with Senator Sharp, nor has the board discussed Senator Sharp’s public comments in any board meeting.”
Sharp did not limit his press release to just misrepresenting the SVCSB. He also lied about information he had purportedly obtained by the Oklahoma State Department of Education (SDE).
Sharp’s press release states the “SDE clarified that by law the BLCs are subject to the same attendance requirements as traditional charter schools, not virtual charter schools.” However, this statement is also false. Two weeks prior to Sharp’s press release, the SDE sent him a
14-page, single-spaced legal memorandum
which clearly told him that was not the case and dismissed other legal theories of Sharp’s about EPIC as being untrue, including its enrollment in Tulsa and Oklahoma counties and his belief that only the SVCSB could have jurisdiction over virtual programs with attendance boundaries, which EPIC’s blended program in Tulsa and Oklahoma counties does.
The SDE was so clear in its
Aug. 13 memorandum to Sharp
that it is difficult to believe the senator did not understand what he was reading. Among the contents of the memorandum, the SDE wrote:
“To be clear, while there may currently be confusion that the SVCSB is solely authorized to approve the offering of full-time virtual schools and instruction, the statutes relating to the SVCSB merely provide that only this state agency authorizes statewide virtual schools. In other words, a traditional public school district or a charter school sponsored by an entity other than the Statewide Virtual Board may offer full-time virtual instruction to any of its resident students.”
And when it comes to Sharp’s allegations about unlawful attendance practices by EPIC, the SDE wrote:
“The simple answer is that traditional public schools, brick and mortar charter schools and non-statewide virtual charter schools establish their own attendance policies consistent with applicable law. … A traditional public school with a virtual school offering and/or a non-statewide virtual charter school may adopt the attendance requirements that a statewide virtual charter school is required to adhere to ….”
As a result of Sharp’s intentional misrepresentation of legal guidance given to him by two state agencies and his defamation of EPIC, the school will request Senate leadership to investigate whether it was appropriate for Senator Sharp to in bad faith use the Senate’s publicly funded resources to publish his false statements.