Austin I.S.D. is now the second school district in Texas to extend health benefits to domestic partners and heterosexual, unmarried couples. Pflugerville I.S.D. was the first school district in Texas to extend their health benefits to domestic partners about five months ago and now Austin is following in their footsteps. Dr. Meria Carstarphen argues that Austin is a very diverse city and it is not the district’s place to judge the validity of relationships.
Opponents of the benefit extension claim that they are defying the Texas Defense of Marriage Act which defines marriage as the union between a man and a woman. Now that unmarried couples and same-sex couples are qualified for the same benefits as the definition of a married couple, the district is demeaning the original definition.
Since the extension is estimated to cost an additional $600,000, some politicians are determined to cut funding. Texas State Representative Drew Springer (R-District 68) has filed a bill that would eliminate public healthcare funding for school districts that offer benefits to domestic partnerships. The politicians that are against this proposal are certain that it will end up costing the district more than they bargained for.
Other opponents argue that with the budgeting crisis facing Texas schools, how is this an economic priority? With textbooks, technology, and teacher pay, shouldn’t this money be used for something that directly affects student success? Many feel that this decision was made without adequate input from the public.
On the other hand, proponents of the extension believe that keeping educators and their families healthy is essential. Educators, regardless of their personal lives, have the right to protect their loved ones and provide adequate care. They claim that it is not the school or the public’s right to decide the well-being of their health.
Which ever side you may be on, this is history in the making. Texas, a predominantly conservative state is now extending health care benefits to public employees to include same-sex partners and unmarried couples.
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