How LAUSD’s Superintendent Has Used Special Pandemic Emergency Powers To Make Fast-Track Deals

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.

In normal times, a board vote would be a crucial step; L.A. Unified board members must approve all major district purchases or contracts during a public meeting.

But since March 10, when LAUSD’s board declared a formal emergency, Superintendent Austin Beutner has had special powers to make fast-track deals to help LAUSD respond to the emerging coronavirus crisis — including the deal that launched the COVID-19 testing program: a $51.3 million contract with start-up lab company SummerBio.

Under LAUSD’s normal process, Beutner said it would’ve taken four or five months to vet the SummerBio agreement and win the school board’s approval. With emergency powers, district officials needed only a few weeks to close the deal — and, Beutner said, they were still weighing their options until roughly 48 hours before they went public.

“We wouldn’t have SummerBio if we had to go through the traditional process,” Beutner said in an interview this week. “There’s no chance … Start-up companies don’t do business with big bureaucracies.” Click here to read more: