2 Williamson County school districts could lose millions in funds due to controversies over books

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WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) – Two Williamson County school districts could be excluded from federal funding of a portion of $ 14 million under the CARES Act due to recent controversies over the books.

Williamson County Commissioners on Tuesday approved the dispersal of funding for all school districts in the county except the Round Rock and Leander ISDs. Commissioner Valerie Covey explained that the court would not approve funding for Leander and Round Rock Districts because they did not want to support “the people who put coal” in schools.

Last week, Leander ISD announced that it would be removing certain books and graphic novels from its classroom libraries after complaints of sexual content. Upon review, 11 titles were retired, including the graphic novels “V for Vendetta”, “Y: The Last Man” and “The Handmaid’s Tale: A Graphic Novel”. However, the titles will still be available in the main school library.

In addition to Covey, Commissioners Cynthia Long, Russ Boles and County Judge Bill Gravell all approved the withholding of funds from the districts. Commissioner Terry Cook did not approve the motion.

According to the Leander School District, “The first round of CARES funding was received around the same time last year, a total of $ 2.3 million (an allocation of $ 100 / student). It was spent on PPE, including a large part of the replenishment of the TEA PPE lot. (face shields, disinfectant, masks, disposable surgical gowns, floor decals). We also purchased learning software for distance learning, air purifiers, electrostatic sprayers, zoom licenses, Chrome books, and other tech spend for distance learning.

A spokesperson for Leander ISD said the district’s decision to withdraw certain books in early December was not the result of a State House investigation into the books schools have on campuses. The district also said that subject matter was not the only consideration, but academic rigor and grade relevance were also taken into account.

Next week will be the last meeting of the Williamson County Commissioners Tribunal before the end of the year. Commissioners Boles and Covey have been tasked to discuss the matter with Leander ISD whose funding will be approved next week. Commissioner Long and Judge Bill Gravell chat with Round Rock ISD. Commissioners will review funding for these two districts next week. Commissioner Cook is responsible for speaking to Travis County.

If the money is not approved by next week, the two districts will not receive a second round of funding.

It was not clear if Round Round ISD had removed any of the mentioned books from its classroom libraries. Jenny Caputo-LaCoste, district public affairs and communications manager, released a lengthy statement Tuesday afternoon expressing disappointment with the vote of the commissioners and hoping that funding will ultimately be approved.

She said the district was disappointed the funding had not been approved and hoped it would eventually be.

“We are happy to address any concerns from Commissioners regarding library books and educational materials and are confident that we can clear up any misunderstandings. In fact, we met with Commissioner Russ Boles today and had a very productive conversation explaining our process, ”wrote Caputo-LaCoste.

“All parents and members of the public at Round Rock ISD have full access to our entire school library catalog. Parents always have the right to determine which books their students have access to. Round Rock ISD has an established process for responding to parents’ objections to educational resources. Any parent who has a problem with a particular book available on their campus is encouraged to contact campus staff directly, and if campus staff are unable to address their concerns, the parent can file a formal objection. If, after review by a reconsideration committee, the parent is not satisfied with the conclusion, the parent can proceed with the formal complaint process which includes the opportunity for complainants to receive a decision from the board regarding the complaint. In addition, parents always have the right to contact their campus and request to inspect any educational resources used by the school with their student.

The money goes to the feds

Williamson County officials said on Tuesday they would likely return around $ 7 million in coronavirus relief funds to the federal government.

The county said this included $ 3 million for small businesses, $ 4 million for cities, $ 2 million in rent and utility assistance as well as $ 1 million in other expenses related to COVID-19. . County officials, however, have suggested they could put some of that unspent money into the additional $ 14 million now earmarked for local schools.

In total, Williamson County initially received approximately $ 96 million in funding from the CARES Act.


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