Education A National Roundup

Arbitrator Faults Buffalo District Over Switch to Single Insurer

By Catherine Gewertz — October 31, 2006 1 min read
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An arbitrator has ordered the Buffalo, N.Y., school district to let its employees choose any of several health-insurance plans, saying the district engaged in “heavy-handed bullying” when it decided to use only one plan.

In an Oct. 21 ruling, arbitrator Dana E. Eischen said the district’s consolidation of health-care coverage, without the consent of the teachers’ union, amounted to a “blatant power play” that “hijacked the contract right of individual teachers” to choose a health insurer.

The Buffalo Teachers Federation, which had exchanged barbs with Superintendent James A. Williams over the consolidation for months, called the ruling a major victory. Mr. Williams vowed to appeal it.

The Buffalo school board approved the change in May last year at Mr. Williams’ urging. He argued that the 43,000-student district had to make the move to stave off red ink. (“Bitter Battle Over Insurance,” Sept. 7, 2005.)

To appeal the arbitrator’s decision, the district must file an action in the state’s trial-level court system, a district spokeswoman said.

A version of this article appeared in the November 01, 2006 edition of Education Week

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