AOC’s inadvertent case for educational freedom

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks at a Bernie Sanders campaign rally last weekend helped make the argument for more educational choice, despite her overall fight against the school choice movement.

“My family made a really hard decision, and my whole family chipped in to buy a small house about forty minutes north of here [from the Bronx to Westchester], and that’s when I got my first taste of a country who allows their kids’ destiny to be determined by the zip code that they are born in.”

A zip code should not determine a child’s future; so, AOC is correct in that regard. Too many students are bound to their local neighborhood public school district because they cannot afford to move to a residence within their desired school’s district. And, the students often trapped in a public school system that is failing them are students of color.

But there is a whiff of hypocrisy in AOC’s personal education story. While her parents had the opportunity to choose a better learning environment for her, AOC doesn’t support expanding education options that would help other families of color access a better learning environment. Plus, her policy remedies would only make the problems in our education system worse, according to Christian Barnard with Reason Foundation.

Her quick pivot to advocating for expansions of government programs to reduce income inequality reveals how Ocasio-Cortez views problems in the education system: as only a piece of a larger puzzle. Giving disadvantage kids access to a better education, in her view, can only be done through comprehensive reforms that minimize differences between school districts in the first place.

But why are sweeping reforms the only solution? Disadvantaged families shouldn’t have to wait until the democratic socialist vision for America is fully implemented to have a better education for their kids. In fact, it’s far from clear how any of the reforms championed by Ocasio-Cortez and [Bernie] Sanders will challenge the public education status quo at all.

Last I checked, they have no plans to do away with school district boundaries or give more families the ability to make the decision Ocasio-Cortez’s family did in choosing a better school. Meanwhile, Sanders has done just the opposite by calling for a moratorium on charter schools—which are a popular alternative to district schools for more than 125,000 New York City children (including many in the Bronx).

Why is the Left so bent on keeping a bureaucratic k-12 education system that is broken and dated? The Left’s attempts to limit educational options are in stark contrast to the views of likely Democratic primary voters, according to poll results reported by U.S. News. Eighty-one percent of Democratic primary voters, including nearly 90% of black Democratic primary voters, support expanding public school choice options, including charter schools.