Austin Beutner: A History of Deceit and Disruption

Source: LA Times, 5/1/2018

We’ve seen this before…

The LA Times revealed this week that Austin Beutner — the new LAUSD Superintendent — is hard at work on a secret plan to break up the district into 32 independent “networks.”

But is this really just a scheme to privatize our public schools?

The more we learn about Austin Beutner, the clearer the answer to that question becomes. Most of us know that he is a billionaire with no education experience. But Beutner also boasts a track record of misleading the public and trying to break apart companies, newspapers, and public infrastructure. Over the years, Beutner has racked up so many examples that we compiled them into a timeline just to keep track of them.

Scroll through below for a closer look at Austin Beutner’s history of deceit and disruption.

Beutner’s Buddy System: Latham & Watkins

Austin Beutner has never even worked at a school, yet he is now in charge of the nation’s second largest public school district. That may explain his reliance on outside consultants and lawyers to help him do his job. Over the next several weeks, we will begin to shed light on the major players. This week, we focus on Beutner’s law firm: Latham & Watkins.

Shortly after he was appointed, Beutner hired the law firm Latham & Watkins to advise the district on financial restructuring. Los Angeles is crawling with lawyers, so what’s so special about this particular law firm?

Latham & Watkins was never viewed as an ally to LAUSD. On the contrary, the firm has a long history of representing clients that have actually sued the district — including the California Charter Schools Association. Over the last several years, they have represented clients on at least four cases against the district.

In a series of cases, Latham & Watkins represented the charter school industry in lawsuits over Proposition 39, which governs the process of co-locations. These cases challenged LAUSD to set aside spaces that public school students need to succeed — like computer labs, libraries, special education rooms, and science labs. The lawsuits were contentious, span nearly a decade, and resulted in public schools losing desperately needed classroom space to the charter industry.

That’s why some school board members were vocally critical of the district hiring Latham & Watkins. Even the LAUSD General Counsel cautioned the board about potential conflicts of interest, stating that Latham & Watkins may continue to represent clients who sue the district in the future. Despite these warnings, Beutner supported the idea to hire Latham & Watkins, and his pro-privatization allies on the board voted to approve it.

The public is entitled to know more about this law firm and what Beutner hired them to do. How can we trust Austin Beutner to protect public schools when he is so secretive about the consultants and lawyers that he’s hiring?

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