The United Teachers of Los Angeles blasted Superintendent Austin Beutner’s “secret plan” to break up the district into “networks,” which may be part of his long-range plan to downsize and privatize the district. Beutner, a non-educator, comes from the financial sector, where large corporations are routinely broken up and sold off. The point of this strategy becomes clear when you see the “corporate reformers” that Beutner has hired.

The LA Times leaked the plan and revealed the names of the consultants that Beutner is relying on. The two major consulting firms are Kitamba and Ernst & Young. The LA Times describes them:

Kitamba partner and chief executive Rajeev Bajaj, while heading different companies, became a major consultant in 2010 and 2011 for the school-reform effort in Newark, N.J. The companies in which he was involved attracted media attention because of potential conflicts involving business ties to state and local officials.

His partner at Kitamba, Erin McGoldrick Brewster, served as chief of data and accountability for the District of Columbia Public Schools, under hard-charging former Supt. Michelle Rhee. In 2009, McGoldrick Brewster, along with Rhee, came under scrutiny for not pushing harder to investigate credible allegations of cheating at schools that showed huge gains on standardized tests.

The work of Ernst & Young and Kitamba is being paid for by the recently established Fund for Equity and Excellence, which pools philanthropic resources for local education. Donors include the Ballmer Group, the California Community Foundation, the California Endowment, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and the Weingart Foundation.

The UTLA said in a press release:

Austin Beutner’s secret plan to break LAUSD into ‘32 networks’, as leaked to the LA Times, is a reflection of Beutner’s short tenure as superintendent. Just as he continues to hide from public scrutiny, this plan was developed with no transparency and without the authentic involvement of parents and educators.

‘Decentralization’ is a common refrain in so-called portfolio districts — like New Orleans, Newark and Detroit —cities that are riddled with a patchwork of privatization schemes that do not improve student outcomes. They do, however, degrade the teaching profession and create chaos for parents and students trying to navigate the system. In New Orleans, there are no public schools left. In Detroit, a sea of charters has decimated democratically-run public schools.

In a competition-based portfolio model, clusters of schools compete against each other for resources and support, creating a system of haves and have nots and exacerbating segregation and equity issues. Rating systems are installed to justify closing “low-performing” neighborhood schools.

Beutner is working closely with the charter lobby–backed School Board members (the same ones who pushed through Beutner’s secretive hiring) while he is shutting out the voice of other elected board members who represent tens of thousands of voters.

“Austin Beutner should be figuring out how he spends the record-breaking $1.86 billion in reserves on urgent student needs, instead of spending time with high-priced, unaccountable consultants plotting the downsizing of a district that serves all students,” said UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl.

The people working on this secretive plan for a portfolio district are being paid off the books through a more than $3 million discretionary fund financed by known privatizer Eli Broad and others. They are exercising power at the highest levels in LAUSD, without any accountability or scrutiny by the public. Beutner is surrounding himself with the same architects of the privatization schemes in Detroit, New Orleans and Newark:

ThirdWay Solutions founder Cami Anderson was superintendent in Newark, New Jersey, from 2011 to 2015. Her billionaire-bankrolled “One Newark” universal enrollment scheme led to numerous neighborhood school closures, mass firings, and multiple complaints of civil rights violations. Parent outrage led to her resignation.
Erin McGoldrick Brewster is a partner at “portfolio district” specialists Kitamba. She helped then-Washington, DC, schools chancellor Michelle Rhee stonewall an investigation into higher-than-typical erasure rates on multiple-choice standardized tests during Rhee’s controversial test score-linked merit pay program.

Last week, Rebecca Kockler stepped down as Beutner’s Chief of Staff. She previously oversaw the massive charterization of New Orleans public schools.
Getting rid of central oversight and accountability would allow the unchecked spread of the worst of the charter sector abuses: not serving all students, financial scandals, misuse of public funds, and conflict-of-interest charges.

“There is no evidence that Beutner’s network approach would save any money—in fact, it likely would cost millions of dollars more as each network builds its own bureaucracy with redundant jobs and duplicative services,” Caputo-Pearl said. “Once this plan is enacted and the protections for our students are compromised, it will be open season for the privatization industry.”