Union to yea or nay archdiocese's contract Tuesday

Catholic school teachers are doing their homework on the New York Archdiocese's latest contract offer, which the union will decide whether to accept Tuesday.

The deal may have been prompted by Friday's arrival of Pope Benedict XVI in New York. Teachers spent that day rallying outside the Manhattan office of Cardinal Edward Egan ? less than a mile from where the pontiff visited the United Nations - before the tentative agreement was reached.

However, union officials say it may not be enough to keep hundreds of teachers off the picket lines. "They have money for everything, but nothing for the teachers," says Henry Kielkucki, of the Lay Faculty Association. "We have a delicate balance of if we go on strike, we'll hurt the kids and that's what we're facing now."

The Lay Faculty Association, representing 450 teachers, called a strike April 15 after the archdiocese rejected its proposal to reduce the term of its contract to three years instead of four.

Union members are demanding better pay, benefits and pensions. The contract negotiations affect Maria Regina High School in Hartsdale, Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains, John F. Kennedy High School in Somers, John S. Burke High School in Goshen and six New York City schools.

Parents and students agree they just want teachers back in the classroom where they belong.

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