The Los Angeles Unified School District board on May 1 named former investment banker and L.A. mayoral aide Austin Beutner as the district’s next superintendent.
Beutner, 58, is the first outsider to head the nation’s second largest school district since John Deasy left in 2014. Deasy’s successor, Michelle King, left due to illness last year. District educator Vivian Ekchian was named interim superintendent in January; she also was a finalist for the permanent post but lost out to Beutner in the 5-2 board vote.
Beutner has spent most of his career in the private sector. He co-founded Evercore, a New York investment firm, served briefly as an advisor in the administration of former President Bill Clinton, then returned to Evercore. After a serious bicycle accident in 2007, Beutner decided to focus on public service and in 2010, was named a deputy mayor by former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, tasked with making Los Angeles more business-friendly. Villaraigosa then tapped him to head the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power.
In 2014, Beutner co-chaired the 2020 Commission, which made recommendations to improve the business climate and quality of life in Los Angeles. Beutner was then named by Tribune Co. as publisher of the Los Angeles Times. But he clashed with Tribune top brass and was fired from the publisher’s post after a year.
Since then, Beutner has focused on education issues. He founded a charity to provide glasses to middle and high school students and co-chaired a panel that made recommendations on improving student attendance and better manage the district’s real estate portfolio.
Beutner takes the helm as the district faces financial difficulties, including rapidly rising pension and retiree health costs and drops in revenue due to declining enrollment.
“Austin Beutner brings a unique combination of private and public-sector experience that will be an asset to LAUSD,” said Gary Toebben, president and chief executive of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, in a statement. “The Chamber looks forward to working with him to improve early childhood education, classroom learning, high school graduation rates, career readiness and college access. As the voice of the region’s business community, we want to ensure the next generation thrives in our global economy, and we know Beutner understands the importance of this vision.”
Economy, education, energy and transportation reporter Howard Fine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @howardafine.