Buffalo, NY teachers get free plastic surgery

    12:11 AM, Feb 22, 2012   |    comments
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    BUFFALO, NY (CNN) -- As thousands of teachers face layoffs across the country, teachers in Buffalo, New York are getting lipo? Yep. And nose jobs and whatever else they want. All on the taxpayers' dime. How is this happening?

    This Buffalo plastic surgeon has a lot of happy patients. Dr. Kulwant S. Bhangoo says, "Let's just suppose I was a woman weighed 300 pounds, and I lost 150-160 pounds."

    Indeed, that's what happened to Buffalo school teacher Valerie Akauloa, but it's not just the results that make her happy, it's the sweet deal that she gets.

    The sweet deal that all the 3,400 teachers in Buffalo are eligible to get under one of their insurance plan options, they are billed nothing for any plastic surgery procedure, such as botox, liposuction, tummy tucks, and there is no deductible.

    Linda Tokarz teaches second grade and says she gets regular treatments. She says, "I think its great for us. I wouldn't want to see it taken away."

    Dr. Kulwant Bhangoo has been a plastic surgeon in Buffalo for almost four decades. He says, "I feel the teachers have paid their dues and it would be wrong to take it away from them."

    While he does have plenty on non-teacher patients, Dr. Bhangoo does say three out of every 10 are Buffalo teachers and the school district's insurance covers every single penny. They will come in for hair removal on their face, liposuction, breast enhancement, and rhinoplasty.

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

    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.

    Now you might think Buffalo's school district must be flush with cash to be offering perks like free plastic surgery, right? Wrong. Louis Petrucci, the president of the Buffalo Board of Education says he is projecting a $42 million deficit in next year's school budget.

    You don't have to be a brain surgeon to know that a plastic surgeon or a teacher would like this policy more than the typical taxpayer. But the teachers will tell you there is more to the story. They say the teachers contract with the city expired nearly a decade ago negotiations for a new one have failed.

    And they add they are woefully underpaid. It is quite interesting to hear what the president of the teachers unions says about the plastic surgery benefit. Philip Rumore says, "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." When asked, "Do you feel as a gesture of good faith, the union should say, teachers, no more free plastic surgery?" Rumore responds, "It would be a wonderful gesture of good faith. We're willing to give it up. All the district has to do is come to the table and negotiate with us. But not willing to do it unilaterally."

    Fact is that 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.

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