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Strike Sticking Point: Who's Responsible for Hiring/Firing Teachers?

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    One of the main sticking points in Chicago's teacher strike is the question as to who will ultimately be responsible for hiring teachers.

    The union wants new hires to come from within its member rolls. The school board wants the ability to be able to hire any teacher it wants. And in the middle are the school principals, who worry about being held accountable for teachers they didn't choose.

    "At the end of the day, this is about the children, and having the opportunity to create a school where everyone is pulling in the same direction," said John N. Smyth Magnet School Principal Ron Whitemore.

    Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis maintains that any new hires should come from the hundreds who have been laid off due to budget cuts. Hiring any other teachers, it's viewed, would be a form of union busting.

    "They keep saying, 'We don't want to be told who to hire,' [but] they have already hired these teachers," Lewis said Tuesday.

    In a letter Chicago Public Schools principals sent Tuesday to Lewis, A.N. Pritzker Elementary School Principal Dr. Joenile S. Albert-Reese wrote on behalf of 30 principals saying "it's imperative that principals be given the autonomy they need in the hiring process."

    "This autonomy is necessary to ensure that principals can hire the most qualified and best fit candidate for the position and our kids," Albert-Reese wrote. "Without this autonomy, principals may be forced to hire individuals whose skill set and value systems are not conducive to the school’s culture, mission, and vision."

    More than 26,000 teachers and support staff hit the picket lines Monday morning after talks broke down a night earlier. The move left more than 350,000 students in nearly 700 schools without classroom instruction.

    "If I'm a principal, and you're going to hold me accountable and you're going to fire me, I want to pick my people," said Dr. Mahalia Hines, a former school principal who Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed to the school board.

    NBC Chicago has an array of reporters and producers covering the Chicago teacher strike. Check our live blog for continuous coverage and updates throughout the strike.