What began as a rider to cover reconstructive surgery in the 1970s has evolved into a perk for teachers wanting "a little work done" at the expense of Buffalo, New York taxpayers.
The school district foots the entire bill and the teachers taking advantage of the rider aren't on the hook for so much as a co-pay.
But taxpayers are, reports the Buffalo News, and the Board of Education, namely member Christopher Jacobs, isn't pleased. As Jacobs told the paper in October, the way these costs have skyrocketed "smacks of abuse."
Though Buffalo's teachers earn around $52,000 a year, their "plastic surgery tab (nearly $9 million last year) would pay salaries for 100 educators," wrote Jordan Weissman in the Atlantic. What's more, the millions spent on these surgeries could have spared layoffs that have hampered the district's morale.
So why is Buffalo footing these costs?
Part of it has to do with the Triborough Ammendment, a 1982 state law that allows employees working under expired contracts to continue under its terms unless their union negotiates a new agreement with the state, said Weissman.
In the Buffalo teachers' case, this translates to working under a 2004 contract, with 2.5 percent yearly salary increases—unheard of in this economy—and little incentive to make any changes.
Said Amber Dixon, the interim superintendent Weissman spoke to: "You get to keep your benefits. You get to keep your cosmetic rider. You get to keep your 2.5% step increase. It makes getting back to the table difficult."
A near-fatal car crash involving a school employee's daughter in 1996 also fortified arguments for keeping the rider at a time when the board wanted to do away with it.
For now the rider still stands, despite the board's pleading with the union to end it in an effort to retain more jobs.
The union waved away the offer last year, reports Buffalo News, though the Buffalo Teachers Federation president Philip Rumore did agree to return to the issue next year when a more "comprehensive agreement" might be on the table.