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Austin Beutner has been an investment banker, a Los Angeles deputy mayor, a candidate for mayor (briefly) and publisher of The Los Angeles Times (also briefly). On Tuesday, Mr. Beutner, 58, was named superintendent of the Los Angeles school district. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Q. A slightly cheeky question: Do you find it at all odd that Los Angeles of all places should be picking a middle-aged white guy with no experience in public education to run its schools?
A. I’m a bit of an unconventional choice, that’s clear. But if you put it in the context of where the district is, well, hard choices lay ahead. Maybe an unconventional choice is just what you need. An unconventional choice who understands the complexity of Los Angeles. An unconventional choice who understands how to frame the complexity about budgets.
Q. What do you see as your biggest challenges?
A. There’s still a big opportunity gap between what kids can achieve and what they are actually achieving. All the resources that need to go to the communities most in need are not getting to the communities most in need. Less than a third of the kids are proficient in math. That’s the language of the future. Less than 40 percent are proficient in English. I think we are looking at some hard choices ahead. There’s no way around it.
Q. Do you have ideas on how to deal with these?
A. I’ve got some ideas. Stay tuned. I’m humble enough to know I have a lot to learn.
Q. How severe are the district’s budget woes?
A. Fairly ominous. I’ll learn more. We’ll have a further and careful look.
Q. Are you looking at making significant cuts in teachers?
A. I don’t think we are that far ahead yet. The challenge is to make sure we understand what the dimensions are. Virtually all of what a school district spends money on is people. Fewer teachers mean less being taught. That’s not a good thing.
Q. How much do you see the teachers’ union as an obstacle in this regard?
A. Your words, not mine. I go into this with an open mind. Teachers’ unions have been made up of teachers. My mom was a teacher. Teachers go into a profession to help kids learn. It won’t be easy. I recognize they have a set of constituents and it’s their job to represent the best interests of those constituents.
(Please note: We regularly highlight articles on news sites that have limited access for nonsubscribers.)
• A coalition led by California has sued the Trump administration over its effort to loosen car emissions standards, a move that could split the U.S. auto market. “This is about health, it’s about life and death,” Gov. Jerry Brown said. [The New York Times]
• An official autopsy report for Stephon Clark, the unarmed black man who was killed in his grandmother’s backyard in Sacramento, varied significantly from a private autopsy that found that he was hit primarily while facing away from the officers who shot him. [The New York Times]
• Nearly 30 Central Americans from the so-called migrant caravan were admitted at the San Ysidro Port of Entry by Tuesday. About 140 asylum seekers had set up an encampment at the border. [San Diego Union-Tribune]
• After touring the border on Monday, Vice President Mike Pence partnered with Representative Kevin McCarthy, the House majority leader, to hold an event in Beverly Hills. It is the latest in a series of gatherings they have hosted together to save California Republicans. [The Sacramento Bee]
• Mark Zuckerberg announced a slew of new products and features at Facebook’s annual developer conference in San Jose. They included a dating app, a cordless virtual reality headset called Oculus Go and new Instagram filters. [The New York Times]
• NASA’s Mars InSight spacecraft is scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Saturday. The mission will be examining the mysteries of the red planet’s interior to answer questions about its structure and composition. [The New York Times]
• Gone are the carefree days of summer: Diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, ticks and fleas have more than tripled in recent years, the C.D.C. found. Tickborne diseases are rising steadily in California and the Northeast. [The New York Times]
• Schools in the University of California system are doing significantly better than other four-year institutions in the U.S. in graduating low-income students, a new report found. [The Atlantic]
• Women are paid less than men, and a common interview question fuels the gender pay gap. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco ruled that prior salary cannot be used to justify this gap; some cities and states — including California — are banning the question. [The New York Times]
• Investigators searching for the Golden State Killer subpoenaed a genetic website last year while investigating an Oregon man as a potential suspect. [Associated Press]
• Officials in San Francisco have adopted a plan to limit the number of electric scooters after the vehicles arrived en masse all over the city in recent weeks. [San Francisco Chronicle]
• He’s back: Stephen Curry returned to the Golden State Warriors for their victory in Game 2 of the semifinal series against the New Orleans Pelicans. [The New York Times]
• The San Francisco chef Pim Techamuanvivit has taken the helm at Nahm, an acclaimed restaurant in Bangkok. Since 2014, she has run Kin Khao, which was awarded a Michelin star just a year after it opened in San Francisco. [The New York Times]
And Finally ...
For 12 years, Sabra Williams, an actress, was a fixture at The Actors’ Gang Theatre in Culver City, a small and cutting-edge theater company founded by Tim Robbins. But you could also find her most weeks over at the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco, where Ms. Williams and Mr. Robbins led a program that taught acting techniques to inmates as a way to help them prepare for life after their release.
Now, Ms. Williams, who was born in Britain, is receiving an honor for her work: the British Empire Medal, awarded for meritorious service. The ceremony is Thursday at the British Residence in Los Angeles.
“It is so insane,” Ms. Williams said. The thing with the U.K., in our culture, we really understand the importance of the arts — and not just for entertainment.”
The award for Ms. Williams, who left her position as director of outreach for the Actors’ Gang earlier this year to form her own arts-and-social-services organization, Creative Acts, is for the efforts to champion similar prison rehabilitation programs here.
“Sabra is a remarkable advocate, a shining example, and we are proud that she is being recognized for her contributions to society in California,” said Michael Howells, the British consul general.
As the announcement points out, Ms. Sabra from this day forward can put those three letters — B.E.M. — after her name.
California Today goes live at 6 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com.
California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.