Should AISD expand benefits to include same-sex partners?
AUSTIN -- The Austin School District is expanding health benefits for employees. Tuesday night the board of trustees approved a plan that would give same-sex couples equal coverage.
AISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen, Ed. D addressed questions regarding the new policy Wednesday afternoon at AISD's headquarters. According to the district, all full-time, regular employees will be able to add "qualified individuals to their health insurance plan."
According to policy, "qualified individuals" include someone who has lived in the same house with the AISD employee for at least the past 12 months. That person can't be a renter, tenant or other type of family member such as a parent, aunt, uncle, niece or nephew.
With the approval from the board of trustees on Tuesday, Austin becomes the second school district in Central Texas to open benefits to same-sex couples.
“Just as somebody has to be first, somebody has to be second and there will be a school district that's third, fourth and fifth. The dominoes are falling and you see that all over the country, not just here in Texas that the LGBT community is getting its rights,” said Jimmy Flannigan, president of the Austin Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
According to the AISD plan, all children of "qualified individuals" are also eligible to be added onto an AISD employee’s insurance plan. The district estimates some 150 people will be added at a cost of $600,000.
"It's just in the nick of time because I'm due to have a baby soon," said Eastside Memorial choir teacher Meghan Buchanan. "We were trying to figure out how to budget for two in daycare. It hasn't been an option for one of us to stay home because we couldn't insure each othe. Now I have the option of putting my wife on my insurance."
Open enrollment for the Austin ISD has already closed, but the district is opening up a special session so that employees can people add to their policies. That begins Oct. 1.
The new policies will then take effect in December.
In April, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott released an opinion stating government entities, such as AISD, who provide same-sex benefits violate the state constitution.