Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Mr. Beutner and the Los Angeles Public Schools

Mr. Beutner and the Los Angeles Public Schools

The Los Angeles Public School teachers left their classrooms in the first teacher strike in thirty years. I read the teachers and their union want class size reduced and support staff restored to previous or even reasonable levels.

The school system’s latest Superintendent, Austin Beutner, has no experience in education. Reports describe him as a former investment banker and non-profit executive brought into the school system by the school board to get the system’s finances in order.

I always get disgusted with everyone who thinks anyone with a history of financial success automatically qualifies for all other jobs including education. So many show their contempt for education by expressing such views. I do not hear the reverse that teachers are professionals qualified to take over an investment banking firm, but they would have to do exactly what Mr. Beutner has to do: start fresh and learn something new.

Newspaper accounts quoted Mr. Beutner: “If we agreed to [union] demands, the district would be come immediately bankrupt and would be taken over by the state that same day.” Even if its true, it takes no financial skill to determine that, which is irrelevant to what’s important anyway.

I read one quote from a striking teacher that makes clear what’s relevant to the strike “We have a charter school on campus that is eating away at our spaces, our resources.” Now we know the real financial problem: charter school students get a bigger share of the budget than their share of students; get amounts out of proportion to their numbers.

If that assertion is false it takes no financial genius to prove it false. Now – January 23, 2019 - the union and Mr. Beutner have reached a tentative settlement that will give teachers a raise, reduce class size and hire more support staff; certainly a good thing. However, it does not answer the question Mr. Beutner was hired to evade. It does not justify the percentage of the total financial budget going to the public schools compared to that going to the charter schools. Those who believe in education should demand an answer.

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