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7 Months Later, LAUSD Leader Wields Emergency Powers To Respond To COVID-19

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Over the summer, when the Los Angeles Unified School District created its own COVID-19 testing program, the news generated so much national buzz that you might not have noticed: the school board never voted to approve the program.

That’s because LAUSD’s school board delegated emergency powers to Superintendent Austin Beutner. The board’s vote gave him the authority to approve fast-track deals — including the contract that launched the testing program: a $51.3 million contract with start-up lab company SummerBio.

To Beutner, these emergency powers have been critical to LAUSD’s pandemic response, allowing district officials to launch meal distribution sites, hand out laptops and internet hotspots … and seal the deal to create the COVID-19 screening program.

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“We wouldn’t have SummerBio if we had to go through the traditional process. There’s no chance … Start-up companies don’t do business with big bureaucracies.”

No other L.A. County school superintendent currently has the same kind of emergency powers to enter no-bid and single-source contracts that Beutner now wields, according to the L.A. County Office of Education.

And while most LAUSD board members have praised how Beutner has used his emergency powers, some also wonder how long he can continue to wield them.

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