To balance the city's education budget, New York's Buffalo School Board has decided to eliminate the district's contentious cosmetic surgery insurance rider for teachers. The board said it would help offset the $11.9 million budget shortfall.
This action would save $5 million according to the five-member majority who signed the resolution. The board will also advise the Buffalo Teachers Federation (BTF) that the district will not continue to reimburse teachers for cosmetic procedures.
"We have figured out a way to use resources from this useless privilege that teachers have created for themselves and putting those resources back into the classroom," said board member Jason M. "Jay" McCarthy on Monday.
However, BTF President Philip Rumore said the union will sue if the board attempts to take away this already agreed upon portion of the contract agreement.
The BTF has not had a contract since 2004 and has adhered to the old agreement as state law requires. The current agreement includes the cosmetic rider and will be in effect until a new deal is reached, at which time the union says it is willing to drop the cosmetic surgery provision.
The board's resolution would also reduce the funding allocated to implement the district's new turn-around plan by $2 million. But board member Larry Quinn says the money will not be cut, and will instead be put in reserve for use later in the 2016-2017 academic year.
The board majority also wants to reduce the amount of budgeted overtime from $1.8 million to $500,000. Administrators have suggested closing the deficit by using some of the district's $52 million in savings, but some board members advised against using any of the reserves.
WIVB-TV's Katie Alexander says the district has stated that it cannot afford to continue spending millions of dollars on teachers' plastic surgery procedures. What is being spent, the district adds, is enough to hire 240 new teachers annually.
According to state law, the district is allowed to do what is necessary to expedite negotiations. Some district officials said taking away the cosmetic surgery coverage would do just that. But Rumore countered by saying this would be the opposite of encouraging negotiations.
"The skin peel treatments, breast enhancements, eyelid work, tummy tucks, while we have 32-thousand kids in poverty who need smaller classrooms, who need tremendous resources. To me it's a moral issue," says Quinn.
But Rumore maintains his stance that taking the rider away will be a "slap in the face to teachers," according to Kelly Dudzik of WGRZ-TV.
Many Buffalo residents feel that cosmetic surgery is not a top priority in the education budget. Teachers should have contracts that include their salaries, their hours, and other expectations, but not this, writes WKBW-TV's
Rumore adds that the district should negotiate for some other perquisite to replace the cosmetic procedures rather than dictating what should be a contractual matter.
The board would like to use the money that would be saved by eliminating the cosmetic surgery clause for improvements such as smaller class sizes in kindergarten through third grade and more neighborhood schools, says board member Carl Paladino.