Lusher Charter School will extend health benefits to employees’ same-sex partners, the school board decided at a Saturday morning meeting.
The cost to the school is not immediately known — it is unclear how many same-sex couples are among the school’s staff, and of them how many would want to enroll with their partner’s health plan, officials said. But even if the cost was high, board chair Blaine LeCesne says the decision is the right one.
“Even if there were some cost ramification, we would have done it anyway,” LeCesne said.
When the school last investigated the issue several years ago, neither state law nor the school’s Blue Cross Blue Shield health plan would allow the partners of gay employees to enroll, said chief financial officer Lynden Swayze. She recently looked into it again, however, and found that it is now possible to offer those benefits under both the law and the current Blue Cross Blue Shield plan.
Before the administration made the change, however, CEO Kathy Riedlinger said she wanted the board to know about it. In response, the board quickly passed a resolution allowing the change.
Swayze said the change in the health plan will take place after the school’s new fiscal year July 1. The school is also now working to extend dental and vision benefits to same-sex partners as well, so that they will have access to the full range of benefits offered to heterosexual spouses. No spouses currently have benefits through the teacher-retirement system, but that program is run through the state so Lusher could not change it anyway, Swayze said.
For gay couples to enroll, they have to meet a number of qualifications to show a life commitment to each other, since they cannot marry under Louisiana law. Those requirements are handled through Blue Cross Blue Shield, Swayze said.
The issue arose as part of a wide-ranging meeting of Lusher’s governing board on Saturday. It began with an extensive discussion of the problems with the school’s audit that arose after a senior accounting employee was discovered to be stealing checks, and ended with the school’s frustration with the division realignment occurring at the state level with high-school football. The board also approved contributing $104,000 to the upcoming renovation of the Fortier campus, so that the Orleans Parish School Board will increase the budget for the project by another $850,000 for additional items.
To read our live coverage of the meeting, see below.