Dec 16, 2021 - News

The fight over school books in Williamson County

Illustration of a book wrapped in caution tape
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The battle over alleged school book smut now has real money riding on it.

Driving the news: The Williamson County Commissioners Court opted this week to withhold federal funding from the Leander and Round Rock school districts over concerns about purportedly filthy books.

Between the lines: The county has two weeks to distribute $14 million that could go to school districts.

But Commissioner Valerie Covey said she would not OK sending the money to schools "that put smut in the rooms of the kids," KUT reported.

  • "I'm not OK with giving money to school districts that teach critical race theory or that allow books in their library ... books that we would consider X-rated," she said.

Leander Independent School District officials already opted to remove at least 11 books from high schoolers' curriculum after a year-long review of titles that parents deemed inappropriate.

  • The books include "V for Vendetta" and "The Handmaid's Tale: The Graphic Novel."

Another commissioner said she thought Round Rock still harbored objectionable books.

By a 4-1 vote, the court approved giving the money to the county's other districts, including Georgetown, Hutto, Liberty Hill and Taylor.

Commissioner Terry Cook was the dissenting vote.

"We are outside of our lane if we try to micromanage the ISDs," Cook said. "We can use the bully pulpit to stress what we think is important, but it's ultimately the school boards and the administration that makes those decisions."

What's next: County commissioners will talk with Round Rock and Leander school officials before their meeting next week, leaving wiggle room for a shift in position.

  • "We are hopeful the funding will be approved next week, as we know the commissioners are eager to support the schools," Round Rock ISD spokesperson Jenny LaCoste Caputo told Axios.
  • Caputo said parents have full access to the school's library catalog, and there is a review process for raising objections.

The big picture: These areas are purple political war zones — rural communities that have become suburban, as Austinites fleeing steep housing costs push in. But as in the rest of the country, school curricula have become a galvanizing force for conservatives.

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