PISD domestic partners supporters
Members of the Pflugerville Educators Association showed their support for domestic partners insurance coverage at the PISD Board of Trustees Dec. 13 meeting.
Pflugerville ISD's decision to offer benefits to domestic partners has come under fire from the Texas Legislature.
The PISD board of trustees' 5-1 vote in December extends health insurance benefits to district staff's domestic partners, which includes same-sex partners. The decision made Pflugerville the state's first school district to offer domestic partner benefits.
“But nothing is more important than making clear … that we respect the values of all our employees," PISD trustee Carol Fletcher said at the board's Dec. 13 meeting where the decision was made. “I’m all in—this is the right thing to do.”
State Rep. Drew Springer, R-Muenster, filed House Bill 1568 in opposition to the district's decision. The bill states that if a district extends domestic partner health benefits, funding to the district will be cut by 7.5 percent under Chapter 46 of the state constitution's Education Code, which pertains to state assistance with instructional facilities and payment of debt.
As of Feb. 26, the bill had 27 coauthors. Springer issued a news release Feb. 10 stating that Pflugerville ISD's decision conflicts with the Texas Constitution, citing the 2003 Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage in the constitution as a union between one man and one woman.
"The policy in Pflugerville comes in direct conflict with the Texas Constitution, because Texas does not legally recognize domestic partners," the release said.
Springer also said the decision takes funding away from the district's students and educational programs.
"Our tax dollars are for educating kids, not for enacting policies that attempt to get the state to recognize homosexual relationships," Springer said. "To think Pflugerville has sued the state for more funding while at the same time bankrolling a lifestyle most Texans do not agree with is quite disturbing to me."
HB 1568 is also supported by Texas Values, an advocacy group that promotes causes such as the pro-life movement and religious liberty.
"This bill is a clear message to every Texas school district: if they mess with the Texas Constitution, it will cost them dearly," Texas Values President Jonathan Saenz said in the release.
Equality Texas, an organization that lobbies against discrimination based on sexual preference, said the legislation is overstepping its bounds by dictating what benefits a school district can offer.
"I would contend that House Bill 1568 is yet another piece of legislative overreach that seeks to undermine school district trustees' local control over personnel and [human resources] matters," Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith said. "No one is in a better position to determine what each individual school district's needs are than the elected trustees of that district, and this legislation seeks to take away those trustees' control."
Smith also said the contention that offering health care to domestic partners takes funding away from students is "100 percent factually inaccurate."
"The policy that was enacted by the trustees of the Pflugerville Independent School District allows access to a benefits plan for dependents, but the premium is paid by the employee or the employee's dependent," Smith said. "It does not divert any educational funds to cover the cost of the health insurance plan."
PISD stated it will continue to monitor all action and deliberation.
"We are closely watching all proposed legislation that could impact Texas public schools," PISD Superintendent Charles Dupre said.
The bill is currently being considered by the Legislature's Public Education Committee. If enacted, it would take affect Sept. 1.