LAUSD superintendent Austin Beutner on taking the strike’s momentum to Sacramento for more funding

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LAUSD superintendent Austin Beutner. Courtesy of Beutner.

After marathon talks with the teachers union, LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner tells Press Play he’s tired but happy that educators and students are back in school, “back to what might pass for normal in Los Angeles Unified.”

The union demonized Beutner on the picket lines. Union president Alex Caputo-Pearl told Press Play he still doesn’t fully trust Beutner. So how does the superintendent present himself as the schools leader in good faith?

“I'm not the enemy. I'm a public school kid. I had every opportunity presented in my life because of my great public education. And that's why I'm doing this work,” he says.

Beutner says he wants to focus on what needs to be done: “Make sure we understand we can't, in one contract, solve 40 years of underfunding. We can't, in one week, solve the frustrations, the over politicized role politics plays in education in California. So let's go forward let's make sure we work together on behalf of students and educators in our schools.”

The union suspected that Beutner planned to break up the district into 32 separate organizations. He suggests that was simply not true.

“We’re going to restore the voice of communities in our schools because we have 700 square miles we serve students over… The notion that one size fits all or this top-down rules and compliance driven bureaucracy can best understands the needs of individual students is upside down to me.” He says the community’s voice was heard during the strike. “What we heard clearly in the voice is that public education is now a topic of conversation in every household in Los Angeles.”

Beutner hopes the momentum of the strike and the community’s commitment to public schools can be used to support ballot initiatives for more funding. “Take it to Sacramento so the rules that bog us down can be changed so we can better serve our students.”

He credits Governor Gavin Newsom for playing a vital role in the negotiations, talking to all sides. He says he went to Sacramento to ensure the legislature understood how it can help the district.

“We're going to have to continue the conversation in Sacramento if we want to deliver on the promise that we've just made. We’ve just made a shared promise...to reduce class size. Now the community has to stay with us to make sure we can deliver on their promise.”

-- Written by Amy Ta, produced by Michell Eloy