September 27, 2016 10:14 am

Mike Matsuda’s statement

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Mike Matsuda is the superintendent of the Anaheim Union High School District. Here is his recent statement to the Orange County Board of Education regarding the Epic Charter, which delivers most of its instruction online.
One of the trustees had a discussion placed on the agenda because of concerns that Epic had misrepresented itself to the public regarding questionable marketing techniques.


Thank you for agendizing this discussion on EPIC Charter schools. My name is Michael Matsuda, superintendent of Anaheim Union High School District.

First of all, I would like to make it clear that our Board of Trustees is not opposed to locally authorized charter schools that are transparent and have local control accountability measures so parents and stakeholders can be heard.

As we have learned, Epic charter schools, a large, online charter network based in Oklahoma, is currently under investigation for fraud in Oklahoma. I have reviewed your approval of the EPIC charter school’s appeal from Anaheim Elementary School District’s denial of the charter application. We have serious concerns and agree with your staff’s original recommendation to deny their appeal.

EPIC charter has engaged in a practice that is wholly inconsistent with the California’s guarantee of free public schools and equitable access. Specifically, Article IX, Section 5 of the California Constitution which provides for a free school system.

EPIC’s charter school model and its use and advertisement of a “Student Learning Fund” of up to $1500 flies directly in the face of the California Constitution.

Socioeconomically disadvantaged student populations, which make up the majority of the population targeted by EPIC, would be subjected to a lower tier of education by virtue of EPIC’s model. This model allows privileged students to use the $1500 provided to them by EPIC to purchase materials and services beyond what is minimally accessible to their less privileged peers.

We understand the Charter was conditionally approved yet we find no evidence that those conditions have been satisfied. We have seen a list of vendors for epic all of whom are from Oklahoma. Does this Board have no concern about the transfer of taxpayer funds from California to Oklahoma? Does this board understand the impact on the education of the students of our districts when 10% of the monies are guaranteed to go to a private entity with virtually no transparency in place? Does this board understand that the students of this charter are only guaranteed one time a month face to face meetings with “teachers”? Can this board guarantee both the high school and elementary districts that the special education and English learner needs of all students will be fulfilled as required by law?

Especially in the case of online charter schools, the public needs to question how, without proper oversight, students are being supported, not only academically but also socially and emotionally. National reports on online charter schools say that they have dramatically lower test scores than traditional public schools, and that students are not getting the adequate social emotional support.

I urge you to rely upon your excellent staff and their fine work presented to you that has underscored the false promises that Epic has suggested. By even the lowest standard no one could suggest Epic is providing an education that leads to successful college and careers. If Epicis allowed to grow without any transparency, accountability and oversight, the futures of students, families and the greater community will be at stake.

At Anaheim Union High School District, we know that education is a complex endeavor where our locally elected school board has created a culture of trust, accountability, and integrity. We trust that you do the same. Thank you.