Former investment banker Austin Beutner, a one-time Los Angeles Times publisher, has emerged as a leading contender to run the Los Angeles Unified School District, it was reported Tuesday.
Though he does not have a background in education, Beutner in the last year has examined some of the district’s intractable problems, serving as co-chair of an outside task force with the support of then-Superintendent Michelle King, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Sources told The Times that Beutner appears to have more support on the seven-member board than other finalists, and his name could come up for a vote as early as Tuesday, when he’s scheduled to be interviewed by the LAUSD for the second time.
But the school board last week received documents from the district’s general counsel David Holmquist, notifying them that the charity Beutner founded, Vision to Learn, could lose its contract with the L.A. Unified School District. The nonprofit, according to the documents, has fallen far short in its commitment to provide vision screenings and glasses to thousands of low- income students this school year, The Times reported.
Beutner Monday declined to comment on the superintendent search and referred questions about the nonprofit to its administrative staff, which is in charge of day-to-day operations. Vision to Learn challenged the accuracy of the district findings, The Times reported.
Superintendent Vivian Ekchian, who has been managing the district since King left on medical leave last fall, also made it to the second round, according to insiders quoted by The Times. The other two apparent finalists are more difficult to confirm, but several sources have named Indianapolis Superintendent Lewis Ferebee and former Baltimore Superintendent Andres Alonso, who teaches at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
An investment banker, Beutner, 58, joined the public sector in 2010 as first deputy mayor under Antonio Villaraigosa, overseeing business and job development. He was part of the Villaraigosa administration for about a year, also filling in as interim director of the Department of Water and Power.
Beutner vied to become mayor in 2012 when Villaraigosa termed out, but his campaign never caught fire and he dropped out early. In 2014, he became publisher and chief executive of The Times but was fired after a year over disagreements about the newspaper’s direction, according to The Times.