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Chicago is the epicenter of the fight over corporatist schools, and Ben Joravsky of the Chicago Reader has done more to report on this than anybody else.

The story is about a specific instance. David Corral was a gym teacher at a charter school, Garcia High, run by UNO, a not-for-profit with enormous political clout.

Corral discovered that a boy in his mixed-sex gym class had been bullied in the locker room and reported it. At first, he was praised by the administration. Then he was fired by the UNO's top guy -- who had been on vacation at the time of the incident.

The rules said that teachers:
1) had to take attendance and report it in the first minutes of class
2) had to supervise students the entire class time.
And Corral hadn't been supervising the students in the locker room.

Those rules are fine for algebra class. For a mixed-sex gym class, the teacher can't be in the gym with the students who are already dressed for gym and in the boys' locker room at the same time, and he can't be in the girls' locker room at all.

Where Corral actually was was in the gym office sending his class attendance from his note-book computer to the administration in keeping with rule 1. Where, in 20/20 hindsight, he should have been was in the boys' locker room where the incident occurred. And he was fired for not obeying the part of the rules -- rules which had 4 contradictory parts -- which would have covered the problem which arose.

It's also clear that Corral would never had got into any trouble if he had overlooked the incident -- which was not so blatant that he couldn't have taken the victim's word that nothing had happened.

The argument against teachers' unions, and for charter schools which have even less protection for teachers than public schools without unions, is that there has to be a way to fire bad teachers without the hassles that contract provisions put in. The problem is that the firing of teachers at the principal's will results in good teachers being fired. Principals want their graduates to have learned more than the average graduate in the nation, but they have more immediate problems. They want no static from the teachers. They want no static from the students. They want no scandal -- which, too often, means that they really would rather that incidents not be brought to light.

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