Education Funding

Bitter Battle Over Insurance

By John Gehring — September 07, 2005 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The Buffalo, N.Y., district is moving ahead with plans to consolidate health coverage under a single carrier. In fact, employees already have been sent new insurance cards.

But a state arbitrator still must rule this month on whether it was legal for the school board to change the coverage without the unions’ approval.

In an attempt to rein in health-care expenses and save about $10 million, the 43,000-student district has been trying to combine health coverage, rather than offer three different providers as it has for years.

The Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority, which oversees the city’s finances, warned last week that the district could be bankrupted if it doesn’t reduce health-care costs, the Buffalo News reported. The district faces the possibility of spending more over four years for benefits than it does on salaries, the newspaper said.

The high-stakes issue has seen tempers flare. Superintendent James A. Williams and the president of the Buffalo Teachers’ Union, Philip Rumore, have accused one another of dishonest bargaining.

Unless health-care coverage is changed, Mr. Williams has argued, major budget cuts will be needed. As it is, the district has laid off 88 teachers and 26 assistant principals, who could be recalled to work when the dispute is settled.

Mr. Rumore has countered that the district is strong-arming the unions by changing insurance plans without providing enough information for them to evaluate the switch.

The New York State Public Employment Relations Board sent in a mediator to help work out a solution. The board handed the district a partial victory Aug. 29, when it allowed the district, for now, to move ahead with its plans.

Buffalo is not alone in its concern over controlling spiraling health-care costs. A survey conducted in July by the Reston, Va.-based Association of School Business Officials International found that more than 800 districts have seen health-care costs rise an average of almost 10 percent in the most recent fiscal year.

“We’re willing to negotiate on a single carrier,” said Mr. Rumore, the president of the BTU, a 3,600-member affiliate of the National Education Association, “but the devil is in the details.

“The district decided to unilaterally impose its choice,” he said. District officials could not be reached, but have repeatedly denied the charge.—

Related Tags:


Student Well-Being K-12 Essentials Forum Boosting Student and Staff Mental Health: What Schools Can Do
Join this free virtual event based on recent reporting on student and staff mental health challenges and how schools have responded.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Webinar
Practical Methods for Integrating Computer Science into Core Curriculum
Dive into insights on integrating computer science into core curricula with expert tips and practical strategies to empower students at every grade level.
Content provided by
Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Funding A Judge Just Ruled That Another State's School Funding System Is Unconstitutional
New Hampshire joins Pennsylvania on the list of states whose courts have ruled that it's underfunding poor school districts.
5 min read
Image of money symbol, books, gavel, and scale of justice.
DigitalVision Vectors
Education Funding This State Would Be the First to Reject Federal K-12 Funds. But It's Far From a Given
Tennessee lawmakers have established a task force to review federal education funding, risking money for low-income schools and special ed.
8 min read
Illustration of Benjamin Franklin on a one hundred dollar bill looking at a calculator that says "recalculating."
Laura Baker/Education Week and hamzaturkkol/iStock/Getty
Education Funding The Federal Government Might Shut Down (Yes, Again). Here's What Schools Need to Know
At first, most districts can expect business as usual if the federal government shuts down. But some districts risk losing funding soon.
5 min read
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is surrounded by reporters looking for updates on plans to fund the government and avert a shutdown, at the Capitol in Washington on Sept. 22, 2023.
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is surrounded by reporters looking for updates on plans to fund the government and avert a shutdown, at the Capitol in Washington on Sept. 22, 2023.
Mark Schiefelbein/AP
Education Funding Do K-12 Students Have a Right to Well-Funded School Buildings?
The answer in a recent state court case wasn't exactly a "yes." But it also wasn't a "no." Here's what could happen next.
5 min read
Image of an excavator in front of a school building.