Any agency, entity, organization or school that gets taxpayer funds should be subjected to oversight by the governmental body that allocates the money. That should be the case for Epic Charter Schools, whose founders stand accused of embezzling state funds and collecting money under false pretenses, mainly through enrolling non-existent "ghost students" to boost numbers.
Cherokee County residents have long been avid supporters of public schools. We have eight K-8 schools here, and three that take students all the way through 12th grade. And for the most part, they all do an exceptional job, which is why even the most prominent area families send their kids to these institutions, rather than driving them to Tulsa for a private education. There are other good local options, too: Sequoyah Schools, which operates under the auspices of the Cherokee Nation, for Native students aiming to immerse themselves in their culture; and Shiloh Christian School, for parents who prefer a curriculum grounded in faith, rather than one with mainly secular roots.
Sometimes parents have other reasons, besides religious or cultural, for not sending their children to public schools. Perhaps they fear violence or bullying they've read about on some campuses. Or maybe they want more direct control over what their kids learn and whom they associate with, and feel they can get that through a virtual charter school.
Parents should always have the right to choose a path of education for their children, provided that education meets certain standards. Some would argue, however, that they do not have a right to insist that public funds pay for private education. Many parents who do choose the private option accept the fact that their tax money will fund public institutions. They realize the Oklahoma Constitution guarantees an education for all kids, and the vast majority either can't afford private schools, or their parents must work and thus cannot be their primary educators. There are also some parents who would like the state to cut them checks for home-schooling their kids, but that would ultimately dry up the well for public schools.
If taxpayers are contributing to the operation of a school, the public should have assurances that its hard-earned money isn't being used for nefarious purposes. That applies to both traditional public schools, and so-called "nonprofit" charters like Epic. These institutions should be held to the same standards and the same accountability as public schools, and their records should be just as transparent.
Gov. Kevin Stitt and State Superintendent Joy Hoffmeister have called for a probe of Epic, and they're not the first to do so. That was a prudent move on their parts, especially since Epic officials funneled money into their political campaigns. That investigation, and how it's handled, will go a long way toward showing Oklahomans where the true loyalties of their elected officials lie.
Epic officials are innocent unless and until proved guilty, but if the investigation uncovers wrongdoing, the harshest penalties should be levied against the school, its founders, and if need be, the board that overlooked the problems. That would include the possibility of shutting it down. There are always options for parents who choose online learning at home, and those that are answerable to their patrons and the public are the only ones that should be serving the young people of this state.