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Williamson County votes to distribute CARES funds to Round Rock and Leander school districts after book controversy

A bunch of books from a reading list for Leander ISD
Photo illustration by Michael Minasi
Leander ISD put several books under review last year, such as "Kiss Number 8" and "Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me." Some were pulled from the English curriculum, but others will return to classrooms.

Williamson County commissioners voted to distribute extra federal funds to the Round Rock and Leander school districts on Tuesday, despite a recent controversy over books in schools.

Last week, county commissioners decided they'd hold onto about $9 million in leftover CARES Act money, pending discussions with the school districts, which they said allow "x-rated" books in their schools.

“Every single person that has received funds must be accountable," County Judge Bill Gravell said during a Commissioners Court meeting on Tuesday. "No one is above accountability."

The votes passed unanimously. The vote for Leander ISD included the stipulation that the district follow through on the removal of 11 books that were deemed inappropriate by a committee of parents and staff after a year-long review. Some of those titles include In the Dream House: A Memoir by Carmen Maria Machado and The Handmaid's Tale: The Graphic Novel by Margaret Atwood and Renee Nault.

More than 40 people signed up to speak on the issue at the Commissioners Court meeting on Tuesday. Many parents objected to what they called graphic content in the books. Others asked commissioners to put politics aside and focus on getting necessary dollars to already struggling school districts.

"I want to get this needed money to the schools who have legitimate COVID-related expense needs," Commissioner Cynthia Long said. "My very simple ask of LISD is to give clarity to the community and finish the book review process."

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Riane Roldan is the Hays County reporter for KUT, focusing on the costs and benefits of suburban growth. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @RianeRoldan.
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