Buffalo, NY teachers can get unlimited plastic surgery; taxpayers foot the bill

Published: Feb. 21, 2012 at 8:42 PM EST
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BUFFALO, NY (WAVE) - As thousands of teachers face layoffs across the country, teachers in Buffalo, NY are getting lipo, nose jobs and any other kind of plastic surgery they want, all on the taxpayers' dime.

Through one of their insurance plan options, all 3,400 teachers in Buffalo are billed nothing for any plastic surgery procedure such as botox, liposuction, and tummy tucks, and there is no deductable.

Second grade teacher Linda Tokarz said she gets regular treatments.

"I think its great for us," Tokarz said. "I wouldn't want to see it taken away."

Dr. Kulwant Bhangoo has been a plastic surgeon in Buffalo for almost four decades.

"I feel the teachers have paid their dues, and it would be wrong to take it away from them," Bhangoo said.

He has plenty of non-teacher patients, but Dr. Bhangoo claimed three out of every ten of his patients are Buffalo teachers, and the school district's insurance covers every single penny.

They come in for hair removal on their face, rhinoplasty, even breast enhancement.

Dr. Bhangoo is one of many plastic surgeons who advertise in the teachers union newsletter.

Last year, Buffalo schools spent $5.9 million on plastic surgery, which is also known as a cosmetic rider. Buffalo teachers have had this rider nearly four decades. It is the only school district in the country known to have such a cosmetic rider for teachers.

Most people might think Buffalo's school district has plenty of cash to offer perks like free plastic surgery, but that is not the case. Louis Petrucci, president of the Buffalo Board of Education, said he is projecting a $42 million deficit in next year's school budget. Petrucci said if the $5.9 million wasn't being spent on plastic surgeries, he would hire about 240 teachers.

The teachers claim there is more to this story. They said the teachers contract with the city expired nearly a decade ago and negotiations for a new one have failed.  And they add, they are woefully underpaid.

"We've told the district from the beginning of negotiations six or eight years ago that we're willing to give it up," said Philip Rumore, president of the teachers union, about the plastic surgery benefit, "so as long the district comes back to the table with us, it's gone."

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... in a school district with a unique mix of brain and beauty.

Copyright 2012 CNN/WAVE News. All rights reserved.