The one aspect of EPIC’s academic model that is the most misunderstood is its Learning Fund. Attackers of EPIC and public school choice have attempted to confuse policymakers and the public by asserting EPIC families receive payments from EPIC through the school’s Learning Fund or are charged expenses. THIS IS FALSE. No family or student, for any reason, ever receives actual money from the Learning Fund or from EPIC Charter Schools because they are enrolled students or because they refer new families. Moreover, neither EPIC nor its management company ever charge a family a penny under any circumstance.
Traditional educators in Oklahoma attack EPIC’s Learning Fund as mysterious and corrupt. However, in many states, individual expenditure programs such as EPIC’s Learning Fund are very common because they are key components to a personalized learning plan for every student. EPIC has operated its Learning Fund since the school’s inception and it has coded all its Learning Fund expenditures in accordance with state and federal guidelines, including the State Department of Education’s Oklahoma Cost Accounting System.
This is how the EPIC Learning Fund works:
When a family enrolls at EPIC, the school’s student information system reflects a $1,000 credit to be used for instructional devices, materials, programs and classes for things like athletics, fine arts or tutoring. Again, the family never receives actual money. Rather, debits from the $1,000 are paid directly by EPIC’s charter management organization to approved vendors who provide these instructional devices materials, programs and/or classes. Approved expenses would not include religious materials or instruction. Detailed information about the Learning Fund can be found on EPIC’s website:
Who can be a Learning Fund vendor?
Learning Fund vendors become approved vendors if they submit such documentation as tax documents and a signed affidavit that neither owners nor employees of the company are registered sex offenders and/or are convicted felons within the last 10 years. Such affidavits are necessary because criminal background checks can’t be done on companies, but only on individuals. While an EPIC parent could own a company that is a Learning Fund vendor, such a business owner cannot submit invoices for services or materials provided to their own EPIC student(s). EPIC’s vendor directory currently includes about 2,100 companies, many of whom are Oklahoma small businesses and are located across the state’s 77 counties. Approved vendors only are paid for providing instructional services or materials. They may have various facets of their businesses but can only submit invoices to EPIC for instructional services or materials they have provided.
What happens to a student’s Learning Fund if they leave EPIC?
The account for that particular student would be deleted in the school’s information system and any remaining balance would be used to support the Learning Fund of students who enroll after the first 45 days of the school year. The state provides EPIC absolutely no funding for the education of such students.