Beutner unveils grant-funded education push at LA Times


The Los Angeles Times today took the wraps off Education Matters, an initiative to cover K-12 education more aggressively. The effort is timed to today's start of the fall semester for most LA Unified students. The Times is "rededicating itself to coverage of teaching and learning," publisher Austin Beutner said in the announcement in the paper. "Our goal is to provide an ongoing, wide-ranging report card on K-12 education in Los Angeles, California and the nation."

With an expanded team of reporters, we will take a fresh approach to our news and analysis starting with today’s stories about the unique challenges facing LAUSD and the last year-round school in Los Angeles. Our editorial pages feature a guest column by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan on the need for more investment in math and science education. You will find our reports at in English and Spanish.

In the coming months, we will convene public forums to address topics such as educational education policy, saving for college and talking to your child’s teacher. We intend these conversations to be both thoughtful and practical.

A team has been rushing to get this "vertical" done by today and, per a source in the newsroom, included at least one weekend gathering for staffers at the home of managing editor for editorial strategy S. Mitra Kalita. The announcement was low-key in this morning's print paper, just Beutner's note tucked on page two, but has a higher profile on the website and in the LAT's morning newsletters. An internal memo from Beutner, Kalita and editor Davan Maharaj announces some hires.

Today the Los Angeles Times launches a new initiative in education journalism. This marks the first of several planned verticals to better organize our work around communities of interest. We will write, photograph, film and tweet accessibly and authoritatively, from locker-lined hallways of schools to the corridors of Sacramento to parent forums in coffee shops.

Education Matters lives at and, in coming days, will roll out interactive features and databases on topics including test scores and vaccination rates. Much of our work will be translated into Spanish, posted on our site and printed in our sister publication, Hoy.

Over the years, education editor Beth Shuster and our team of schools reporters have broken news, held teachers and elected officials accountable, and told stories in creative ways. Now they will work in collaboration with new and existing Times journalists to strengthen our efforts online and bolster coverage.

Among the new faces is editor/reporter Joy Resmovits, formerly a senior education writer for the Huffington Post. Joy has broken news on charter schools, former Washington, D.C., chancellor Michelle Rhee, teachers unions, special education and school segregation. She just completed the Spencer Fellowship at Columbia University and has worked at the Jewish Daily Forward and the Wall Street Journal. She graduated from Barnard.

Sonali Kohli also joins us as an education reporter. She previously worked at Quartz covering education and diversity, and is known for her data-driven reporting and creativity on topics such as AP scores, the achievement gap and coloring books. She was raised in Diamond Bar and graduated from UCLA.

Daniela Gerson is our new community engagement manager, with primary responsibility for HS Insider and the user-generated content opportunities it represents for the vertical and across The Times. Daniela previously directed the civic engagement and journalism initiative at USC’s Annenberg. She has partnered with youth across the region from Alhambra to Watts to tell their stories, and also worked at the New York Sun. She graduated from Brown University and lives in Echo Park.

Please join us in celebrating this new chapter and welcoming our new colleagues.


Austin, Davan and Mitra

Kalita was a senior editor at Quartz before coming to the Times earlier this year. Kohli also was recently a reporter trainee at the Orange County Register.

The Times has rededicated itself to education coverage and good deeds before, most notably with the Reading By Nine program in the 1990s. But this time looks different in a couple of key ways. First, Beutner has been involved as a community leader in education reform since well before he became publisher and it's a personal focus for him — and now for the paper he runs with a more active hand than most previous publishers. (See below his Facebook note bringing longtime Democratic Party figure Mickey Kantor into one of his philanthropic projects.) And second, this LA Times news effort is funded at least in part by grants from a bunch of outside non-profits — all community players the Times also covers or should be covering, by the way.

From Beutner's announcement:

A child’s success in the classroom depends on the participation and support of everyone in the community, a view shared by the California Endowment, the Wasserman Foundation and the Baxter Family Foundation, which are providing funds to support Education Matters. The California Community Foundation and United Way of Greater Los Angeles have also supported this effort with grants from the The Broad Foundation. These institutions, like The Times, are dedicated to independent journalism that engages and informs its readers.

The Times has used grants from non-profits to fund some reporting slots in recent years, as have some other big news media outlets, most notably locally KPCC.

Earlier this week on his Facebook page, Beutner announced a new role for Mickey Kantor, the veteran Los Angeles lawyer, City Hall advocate and Democratic Party macher. Beutner is behind Vision to Learn, a program that helps low-income youngsters with vision problems and is apparently a big success.

Vision To Learn started three short years ago with little more than an old, rehabilitated mobile clinic and the desire to help children in low-income communities. We have come far in a short time. Vision To Learn is now operating in three states, with more on the horizon. We have helped almost 40,000 kids at more than 1,500 schools and community organizations, and given each child a better chance to succeed in school and in life. We have shown there is an unmet need not only in Los Angeles but across California and the nation, and that glasses have a significant and positive impact on a child’s academic performance and life.

As Vision To Learn continues to work to give children across the nation a chance to succeed, we are expanding our leadership team to help fulfill this goal. Thankfully, Mickey Kantor has agreed to serve with me as Co-Chair of Vision To Learn. Mickey’s vast experience, keen insights, and fierce focus on getting the job done have been put to work on behalf of the U.S. Government, his clients around the world, political campaigns, and causes he believes in. Mickey has been on the board of Vision To Learn since its inception, and now he is going to expand his role with us to help more kids. We count ourselves lucky to be able to continue to count on his counsel and support.

Please join me in welcoming Mickey to his newly expanded role on the Vision To Learn team.

The first to comment favorably on Facebook? Department of Water and Power general manager Marcie Edwards, a subject of news coverage and editorial page commentary in the Times. Her comment: "I'd like to help..."

More by Kevin Roderick:
'In on merit' at USC
Read the memo: LA Times hires again
Read the memo: LA Times losing big on search traffic
Google taking over LA's deadest shopping mall
Gustavo Arellano, many others join LA Times staff
Recent LAT stories on LA Observed:
Read the memo: LA Times hires again
Read the memo: LA Times losing big on search traffic
Gustavo Arellano, many others join LA Times staff
Here's who the LA Times has newly hired*
New seasons of SoCal Connected, Lost LA on KCET
LA Observed Notes: Times hiring binge, LA Weekly investor sues, media tidbits
LA Observed Notes: Editor moves, NYT steps on JGold turf, jobs and more
Jonathan Gold, LA's preeminent food writer, has died at 57