Back-to-school week is a little sweeter for Austin teachers this year: Austin ISD voted this week to provide health care benefits to same-sex partners of employees.
Well, sort of. The new policy, which goes into effect in December, extends benefits to “qualified individuals” who meet the plan's criteria. “Qualified individuals” live with school district employees but are not renters, tenants, or family members. “Qualified individuals” is AISD's way of saying “Aunt Regina's good friend Karen who comes to Thanksgiving dinner.”
The Austin school board is pfollowing in Pflugerville's pfootsteps (I'll stop now) with this decision: Pflugerville became the first school district in Texas to offer benefits for domestic partners last year.
Of course, putting a damper on everyone's celebration is the possibility that Greg “Family Values” Abbott will piss on everyone's parade by reminding them that the Texas Constitution does not recognize the anti-family, immoral act of sharing health care coverage between loved ones.
Read more about the new policy after the jump.The school board voted on the proposed health care plan on Tuesday, and enrollment will open in October.
According to the FAQ document provided by the school district, qualifying individuals for the policies are dependent or interdependent adults who have lived with the employee for over a year.
The children of the qualified individual are also covered by the new plan.
Technically, the insurance plan is not an ideal “plus-one” plan, which would allow employees to cover one additional person on their plan, be it a partner, uncovered family member, or friend. Those plans give employees greater flexibility if they choose to cover someone with whom they have a relationship not recognized by a company's arbitrary standards.
However, the rules for qualifying individuals could expand; the FAQ document notes that the specific criteria will continue to be reviewed.
About a year ago, Pflugerville ISD became the first school district in Texas to cover domestic partners of employees. The district introduced the policy at the beginning of the year, but the school board decided to vote on it later after facing opposition.
Individuals against the implementation of the new insurance policy claimed that it was condoning and normalizing homosexual relationships, which would turn schools into sex-crazed dens of debauchery because reasons.
Ultimately, the school board approved the policy.
Not wanting to miss out on an opportunity to showcase What Jesus Would Do, lieutenant governor candidate and state senator Dan Patrick asked Greg Abbott to revoke health care for the loved ones of teachers. (You remember Dan Patrick? He's one of the key legislators who pushed the 2011 sonogram bill? And in July mimicked an abortion-seeking woman by saying, “This isn't convenient right now — do you mind dying?” And wrote a guide to reading the Bible titled The Second Most Important Book You'll Ever Read? Then gave it five stars on Amazon? That guy.)
Abbott released his opinion in 2013, claiming that Pflugerville was offering benefits to individuals not recognized as legal partners by the state of Texas. However, he also conceded that the courts had the ultimate authority to determine the legality of the case.
The Austin ISD plan should avoid this criticism with its vague description of “qualified individuals,” but don't expect Texas Republicans to be any less disgruntled.
The central Texas school boards' decisions are a much-needed step in the right direction for partners and families. All individuals deserve quality health care now, but especially the public servants who do so much for Texas children, usually for very little pay.
Now that public schools in Austin offer benefits for domestic partners, let's hope word spreads to the University of Texas board of regents, where UT faculty and staff have been lobbying for a plus-one insurance plan for years.