By Associated Press - Wednesday, February 12, 2020

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The Oklahoma State Department of Education hit an online charter school with a half-million-dollar fine for exceeding the legal limit on administrative costs.

Epic One-on-One spent 5.58% of its total budget on administrative services, exceeding the 5% cap set by the state, according to an email the state education department sent to the school’s superintendent.

In Oklahoma, school districts serving more than 1,500 students are mandated to keep costs for administrative services at no more than 5% of their budget. Epic’s $530,527 penalty is equal to the excess amount money the online school spent above that percentage. The fee is expected to be deducted from the funds the state appropriates to the school.

Epic spokeswoman Shelly Hickman said a coding error caused officials to include principals in the administration category.

“It is our understanding that EPIC is identified as exceeding the administrative cap because of a coding error and the State Department of Education requiring us to list administration under one charter rather than allocate it appropriately between our two charters,” Hickman told Tulsa World in a statement.

Epic One-on-One is an online learning platform available to Oklahoma students where they meet individually with their teachers. Charter schools are generally privately operated but receive state funding.

State schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister told the newspaper in a statement that Epic doesn’t have the option to obtain a fee waiver or an appeal.

“Even if there were I wouldn’t recommend it,” she said. “Epic waited until the 11th hour to certify this data as accurate under penalty of law.”

Epic submitted its expenditures to the state on Dec. 16, 2019, which is the final deadline for school districts to submit cost and revenue reports. Twelve other schools were penalized for exceeding the 5% cap, but Epic’s fine is by far the highest.

“(The state education department) sent Epic a lengthy list of questions on Dec. 20, 2019. Despite multiple inquiries, Epic has yet to respond. There is no confusion here. The penalty will be enforced,” Hofmeister said.

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