Without realizing it, left-wing stalwart Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York recently made the case for school choice.
In mid-October, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez appeared at a Bernie Sanders campaign rally to offer her endorsement of the Vermont socialist. Who knew that the one of the foremost proponents of fatuous identity politics would end up backing an old, white guy?
At any rate, during her speech, AOC talked about why her family left the Bronx to move to the suburbs about 25 miles north of New York City.
“My mom and my dad looked at the quality of education in Bronx,” she said. “They looked at 50 percent dropout rates” and decided to move.
“My family made a really hard decision,” AOC said. “My whole family chipped in to buy a small house (in Westchester). 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’re born in.”
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has correctly identified a problem that has long vexed education advocates. Rich families always have access to quality schooling. They can either move or pay tuition for a private school. But those options require a significant financial sacrifice for lower-income families fortunate enough to pull it off. Most low-income children don’t have the resources to make such choices. Their ZIP code can mean attending a failing school — unless they have access to school choice.
School choice is about giving parents more freedom to select the school that’s best for their children. It can come in many forms, including charter schools, which are public schools run by private organizations. It also means private school choice programs, such as vouchers and education savings accounts. These programs allow parents to use a portion of the money the state would have spent on a child’s public education to attend a private school.
These programs are popular. In New York City, more than 10 percent of students attend a charter school. In Nevada, combining the students attending charter schools would produce the state’s third- largest school district. Unlike in traditional public schools, there is built-in accountability. If parents don’t like a school’s performance, they can easily leave. Research also shows that both charter schools and private school choice boost student achievement.
Unfortunately, many Democratic politicians, including Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and Mr. Sanders, feverishly oppose school choice in an effort to curry favor with powerful teacher unions, an important Democrat special-interest group worried about losing their grip on their education monopoly. That’s a shame. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has identified an important problem. But she wants to deprive children of the obvious solution.