Updated: Tuesday, 21 Feb 2012, 5:54 PM EST
Published : Tuesday, 21 Feb 2012, 5:54 PM EST
- Diana Fairbanks
- Posted by: Eli George
BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – The Buffalo Public School district is facing a huge budget shortfall. But at the same time is charging the taxpayers millions, not for improvements to education, but for nose jobs and liposuction for teachers. That perk is getting renewed scrutiny from around the nation, including Monday night on Anderson Cooper.
All of the 3,400 teachers in Buffalo are eligible to get plastic surgery under one of their insurance plan options. They are billed nothing for any procedure, such as botox, liposuction, and tummy tucks, and there is no deductible.
Teacher Linda Tokarz argued, "I think it’s great for us. I wouldn’t want to see it taken away."
Plastic surgeon Dr. Kulwant Bhangoo agreed, saying, "I feel the teachers have paid their dues and it would be wrong to take it away from them."
The longtime Buffalo surgeon admits three out of every 10 are Buffalo teachers – and the school district’s insurance covers every penny.
Last year, Buffalo’s schools spent $5.9 million on plastic surgery, which is also known as a cosmetic rider. And Buffalo teachers have had this rider for nearly four decades.
School Board President Louis Petrucci said, "I’ve been unable to identify another district that has cosmetic riders for teachers."
Petrucci says the district just can’t afford it when its facing a projected $42 million deficit for next year’s school budget. With the money the district is spending on plastic surgery, he says he could hire about 240 new teachers.
But teachers say there’s more to the story. They say their contract with the city expired nearly a decade ago and negotiations for a new one have failed. And they add – they are woefully underpaid.
Teachers Federation President Philip Rumore said, "We’ve told the district from the beginning of negotiations six or eight years ago that we’re willing to give it up, so as long the district comes back to the table with us, it’s gone."
Also noteworthy: police and firefighters in Buffalo have similar plastic surgery programs, but those departments are not dealing with the same financial problems as the economically challenged school system. But at least for now, the policy remains.