Previously, the Williamson County Commissioners Court voted 4 to 1 on December 14 to withhold certain federal relief funds from Leander ISD and Round Rock ISD due to parental concerns about allegedly obscene books in their libraries. The funds come from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which Congress passed in March of 2020.
Specifically, Leander ISD pulled 11 books from its high school classrooms and curriculum after a year-long review but kept the books in district libraries. The district must remove the books from libraries to receive CARES Act funding from the county. For Round Rock ISD to receive funding, it must abide by the review process it created for parents to lodge complaints about students’ reading material.
The commissioners unanimously agreed to conditionally grant CARES funds to the districts at their December 21 meeting.
Four state lawmakers that represent the Williamson County area had encouraged the commissioners to grant funding to Leander and Round Rock ISDs in an open letter the day before.
“You have previously been thoughtful and gracious enough to provide CARES Act funds to our public schools, even when not required, to offset the momentous challenges and learning loss we are seeing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As you allocate a second wave of CARES Act funding, we are asking that you show that same forward-thinking and responsiveness by voting to extend funding to Leander and Round Rock ISDs,” state Reps. John Bucy (D-Leander), Vikki Goodwin (D-Austin), Donna Howard (D-Austin), and Celia Israel (D-Austin) wrote.
“These two districts serve the overwhelming majority of students in Williamson County and the funding in question could go a long way to address the challenges they continue to face throughout the pandemic.”
Leander ISD is slotted to receive $3,738,000 in this wave, and Round Rock ISD has been allocated $4,950,625.
The CARES Act also disbursed other funds directly to Texas charter schools and school districts, along with another Trump-era relief package and a third package sent out under the Biden administration. Altogether, these bills totaled over $17 billion in federal funds for Texas public schools. From the CARES Act alone, Leander ISD was allocated over $762,000 and Round Rock ISD was allocated just under $3 million.
Commissioner Valerie Covey, one of the four commissioners that initially voted to exclude the two school districts from the county’s CARES Act funding last week, said the “X-rated” content of certain books motivated her decision.
Similar concerns also motivated some community members to vote against Leander ISD’s proposed bond last month.
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