CHICAGO, Ill. (CNN) -- Chicago teachers are walking the picket lines today. They went on strike after their union and school officials failed to reach a contract agreement, despite ten months of negotiations.
Although talks have now resumed, thousands of kids in the nation's third largest school district are not able to attend school.
Chants of "What do we want? Contracts! When do we want it? Now!" can be heard in Chicago Monday. For the first time in 25 years, Chicago teachers are officially on strike. Almost 30,000 teachers and staff walked out, leaving nearly 400,000 schoolchildren shut out of their classrooms. Parent Valicia Hill says, "We suffer through poverty, they suffer through gang violence and our kids have to be out of school? That's the only safe haven they really have right now."
Charter schools remain open and the school district opened 144 of its schools for part of the day to provide food and supervision for kids in need.
The teachers union says the sticking points are health benefits and a new system for evaluating teachers. Josephine Hamilton Perry with Chicago Teachers Union says, "Well because the evaluation system can be very biased. It can be very biased to older teachers, it can be very biased to inexperienced teachers."
The union says as many as 6,000 teachers could lose their jobs due to the new evaluations. Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel says the system was designed by teachers. He says, "I'm more optimistic that the teachers will pass. I have more confidence in the teachers than they do, which I think is a little strange."
The school district is offering pay raises of 16 percent over four years and says it has no more money to offer. This parent sides with the teachers. She says, "The teachers are working their butts off. There are 50-60 kids in a classroom. How can you teach a class if its 50-60 kids a teacher?"
For now, it's zero kids in a classroom, until both sides come to an agreement.