Round Rock, Leander ISDs to not receive federal funds over "inappropriate" books

Williamson County Commissioners voted Tuesday to withhold federal money from Round Rock ISD and Leander ISD over literature that some parents say is inappropriate.

Commissioners voted 4 to 1 to allocate an additional $14 million in CARES Act funding to local school districts--all districts except Round Rock and Leander. In Tuesday morning's meeting, some commissioners expressed concerns over books allowed in those districts that they feel are too graphic, or address issues like critical race theory. 

They are concerns many Leander parents have echoed this year. "I don't like some of the stuff that I had seen," said Leander parent Melissa Vasquez. "I don't agree with some of the graphic stuff that hey have on there"

Some parents even kept their kids home in protest this past spring--over books with sex, rape, drug use or profanity.

"I think the book issue itself, with the nudity and everything else, stuff going on, it shouldn't be in the school at all," said one Leander parent who didn't want to be identified.

But many of these same parents say the Commissioners' move to hold back much-needed school funding is a bridge too far. "It's just not fair that the money goes somewhere else instead of here," said Vasquez. 

"I think the commissioners need to look at the totality of the circumstance and make sure they're playing ball with all the school districts, to make sure not one school's better the other school," said a Leander parent. 

Leander ISD did pull a handful of books from the shelves last week, but that wasn't enough to stop Tuesday's vote. 

"I think either way kids are going to read those books," said Vasquez's son Joe, who is a junior at Leander High School. "I hope they realize just taking some money over some books is not going to benefit anybody." He questioned whether other school districts will get more money as a result. 

In a statement, Jenny Caputo, Chief of Public Affairs with Round Rock ISD said in part: 

"We were disappointed that CARES funding was not approved by Williamson County Commissioners today...We are happy to address any concerns Commissioners have related to library books and instructional materials and feel certain we can clear up any misunderstandings."

A statement from Leander ISD Communications Director Matt Mitchell reads in part: 

"We will be coordinating discussions with our County Commissioners and Judge Gravell regarding their decision to withhold CARES funding from our students and classrooms…our Board of Trustees and administration have taken several actions regarding instructional materials to meet our community’s vision for public schools…We have more work to do."

Commissioners made clear the money could be restored to Leander and Round Rock ISDs, but members of the court say they want to have conversations with both of these districts before that happens. 

"I don't know if that'll happen, but yes, I hope it does and the money goes here, and they use it for the kids in Leander and Round Rock," said Melissa Vasquez.

"I feel like the simple solution would just be take those books out, and then they could just purchase new books," said Joe Vasquez, adding, "I hope we get our money."    

Officials at Round Rock ISD point out that parents do in fact have access to the school library catalog, and have the right to determine what their kids are allowed to read. The district says it is hopeful the Commissioners will reverse course and approve the federal funding will be approved next week. 

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