Chicago Teachers Strike Is Biggest in a Generation

29,000 teachers take to the picket lines after negotiations fail.
3:00 | 09/10/12

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Transcript for Chicago Teachers Strike Is Biggest in a Generation
the air in this new school year is beginning, there is an uprising taking hold in the city of chicago. Tonight, the biggest teachers' strike in america in a generation is under way. 29,000 teachers out on the picket lines. 350,000 american students shut out of school and here is the heart of the standoff. How do you judge if a teacher is good or not good enough in the classroom and who should decide? Even though this is happening in chicago, tonight it could light a fuse in american cities and towns across this country and abc's alex perez leads us off. Reporter: It is the largest teachers strike this country has seen in more than two decades, 29,000 union members strong, refusing to go to work until they get what they want. We are fighting for dignity and respect and for a fair contract. Reporter: The strike is pitting the powerful teachers' union against the mayor. This is a strike of choice and it's a wrong choice for our children, and it's not necessary. Reporter: City officials launched an emergency plan, opening 144 schools for a half day to serve kids breakfast and lunch and keep them busy. We visited crown elementary where students played games all morning instead of taking classes. Are you upset that you are not able to be learning in the classroom today? Yea because, well, how are we going to get our education without learning? Reporter: The strike has left thousands of parents in the lurch. Janice thompson scrambled to rearrange her schedule to pick her twins up early. The strike combined with the city's soaring murder rate is what most bothers her. If our kids are out here in the street, something might happen to our children. Reporter: Lajoi parker had to stop working on her nursing degree so she could be home for her kids. What's your concern if this strike doesn't end soon? It's frustrating trying to figure it out. It really is. Reporter: Chicago teachers are fighting for better pay and benefits, but the sticking point is a new plan to base teacher evaluations in part on how well their students score on standardized tests. The unions argue that would put teachers at a disadvantage and possibly cost them their jobs. We feel that would distort the curriculum, threaten the profession. Reporter: These contract talks are being closely watched around the country, battles over testing playing out in school districts in at least 23 states. Teacher evaluation is a very hot topic right now. Many states and localities have developed procedures that include student test scores as part of the evaluation. Reporter: And the teachers vowed to continue protesting until a deal is reached complicating the situation like this from the u.S. Department of education which found that about 80% of chicago eighth graders are not grade level proficient in reading or math. Diane? All right, thank you so much,

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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