Austin ISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen says the district hopes to offer open enrollment for domestic partner benefits as soon as this fall.
"While we still have a few obstacles to overcome, legal and otherwise, a clear path forward has emerged,” Carstarphen said in a recorded video as part of AISD's annual convocation on Wednesday. “Employees will have the opportunity to add new, qualifying individuals to their coverage as part of a separate enrollment period as soon as October 2013."
The district postponed plans to offer the benefits earlier this year following an opinion from the Texas Attorney General that it violates the Texas Constitution.
The issue also caused Republican state Rep. Drew Springer, R-Gainesville, to file a bill this past legislative session that would have cut funding to school districts that provide domestic partner benefits.
Now, AISD says it will offer benefits to qualified individuals. To qualify, partners must be over 18 years old, live together and prove their financial dependence. That could mean something like a joint bank account or power of attorney. Chuck Smith with gay rights group Equality Texas says the enrollment plan will comply with state law.
“It does so by having eligibility criteria that are based on financial dependence not upon a familial relationship or romantic relationship," Smith says.
Equality Texas worked with AISD on the new proposal.
“I think this is probably the simplest way to offer a plan that offers access to competitive benefits and can still be compliant with the law,' Smith says.
The school board will vote on the plan Tuesday, Aug. 27. If it’s approved, the district says enrollment will begin in October and the benefits would take effect December 1.