School Choice

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Accidentally Makes the Case for School Choice

It’s far from clear how any of the reforms championed by AOC and Bernie will truly challenge the public education status quo.

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At a Bernie Sanders campaign rally last weekend, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.) inadvertently made a powerful case for educational freedom.

The young congresswoman shared a childhood story about how her family made financial sacrifices to leave the Bronx and buy a house in Westchester so that she could attend school in a higher quality district. "My family made a really hard decision," she remarked as she lamented the inequities of the school system. "That's when I got my first taste of a country who allows their kids' destiny to be determined by the zip code they are born in." 

Ocasio-Cortez correctly identified the problem: A better education shouldn't only be an option for families that can buy property in other districts. And she's right to call out a school system that has historically shortchanged minority communities. 

But the policy remedies she offers would only make the problems with our education system worse. 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 disadvantaged 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 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). 

The 2020 Democratic primary challengers seem to be pushing the party in a more progressive direction on a broad range of policy issues such as healthcare and environmental regulation. But when it comes to K-12 education, most of the Democratic front-runners are steadfastly committed to the established system and enthusiastic about stopping the expansion of school choice and other education reform initiatives. 

In her remarks, Ocasio-Cortez mentioned poor teacher pay as a major reason for why the public education system fails to serve disadvantaged kids. Teacher compensation is a valid concern, but she should step back and ask larger questions about why schools can't give higher salaries to the teachers they want to keep in the first place, and why many families are on waiting lists for charter schools even though they operate with fewer dollars per pupil. If the school system is going to work better for all children, more families need to be empowered to vote with their feet and attend a school that works best for them—whether they have the ability to buy a house in another district or not. 

NEXT: Corporate America Discovers the Limits of Political Posturing as a Marketing Tactic

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60 responses to “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Accidentally Makes the Case for School Choice

  1. But why are sweeping reforms the only solution?

    Because the alternatives include allowing parents to make choices that central planners can’t control.

    1. Bingo!

      If she is sincere, AOC is blind to the strong possibility that what is wrong with the Public School system is too much government involvement. And if she is simply mouthing the usual platitudes of the Progressive Left (as filtered through whatever she uses for brain) then she’s just another shill for the Authoritarian State.

      1. Sincere? AOC said the world would end in 12 years. That was almost a year ago, so it’s more like 11 years now.

        Why would she or anyone care about school reforms if they honestly believed everyone would be dead in just over a decade?

        Either her dire predictions, or her concern about education, or both are insincere.

        1. Or she just has the usual massive cognitive dissonance to be found in politics. It’s not weird – people have sincerely held, passionate political beliefs that directly conflict all the time.

          Remember – there are five lights!

    2. Because teachers’ unions that protect underperforming teachers and extravagant pensions would lose their power if charters are allowed. And take their votes away from the blue jackasses.

  2. But when it comes to K-12 education, most of the Democratic front-runners are steadfastly committed to the established system and enthusiastic about stopping the expansion of school choice and other education reform initiatives.

    That sure is an odd position to take, you would think the teacher’s unions would be holding their feet to the fire over their failure to do what’s best for the children.

    1. But you see, what’s really best for the children is to have only rich people exit the public school system.

    2. “you would think the teacher’s unions”

      Charter and private schools are mostly non-union. The teacher’s unions don’t give a rat’s ass about what’s best for the children, they only care about what’s best for the union hierarchy and their membership (in that order).

      1. Remind me again, what’s the difference between a Teachers’ Union and a criminal conspiracy too defraud the public? I keep being assured that there is one…..

        1. The Teachers’ Union operates with impunity?

          1. You willingly subject your kids to the influence of the teachers union. A bit less with the mob.

          2. If we had a true justice system, the union leadership (at least) would be in prison for child abuse and fraud.

      2. “When schoolchildren start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of schoolchildren.”

        -attributed to Albert Shanker, former longtime president of both the United Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of Teachers

      3. The kids are only in each school for a few years, the teachers are there until they retire with a full pension and free healthcare for life. So who do you think is more important?

  3. Amazing how un-self-aware these idiots are. Amazing actually that I am still amazed by their self-proclaimed hypocrisy.

    1. “Amazing how un-self-aware these idiots are.”
      And yet, they can get themselves elected.

      1. Amazing how unaware the voters are.

    2. It is encouraging that now _both_ parties have a leading figure who often lets his/her mouth outrun his/her brain.

  4. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez accidentally a lotta stuff.

  5. If we’re serious about improving American education, we need to bring back forced busing for racial integration. Studies show a diverse learning environment is absolutely essential not just for students of color, but for privileged white students as well.

    #LibertariansForBusing
    #DiversityAboveAll

    1. Not only that but we must not allow parents to move to escape busing or to send their children to anything other than a traditional public school. It’s only through firm government coercion we can truly be equal and free.

      1. AOC’s first order of business will be to send her parents to reeducation camps as they were clearly kulaks and/or wreckers.

        1. If that happened, it would be the first time in history. The way those systems work is that there is one set of rules for the leadership (and the leaders’ families) and a completely different set of rules for everyone else.

          Do you think the old Soviet party leaders and their families lived in cramped apartments with shared bathrooms just like the proletariat? Or today, do you think Maduro’s own family in Venezuela doesn’t have medicine if they need it, or even toilet paper? Or do you think China’s senior leaders have to abide by the same travel restrictions they have imposed on the Uyghers?

  6. Teacher compensation is a valid concern,

    You must have had poor teachers who didn’t counsel you to challenge your assumptions.

    Teachers are represented by a powerful public union with a irreconcilable conflict of interest. The teachers themselves are part of the ‘public’ that elects the people their union negotiates against. Most are excessively compensated for a desirable job that requires no labor or skills.

    1. ^^This^^

      “Teachers are underpaid” is one of those things that has been repeated with such frequency that many have internalized the “truth” of that statement. First, the vast majority of people believe they are “underpaid,” but that doesn’t make it true. Ask around. Second, particularly in unionized urban districts, teachers make well above the median salary of the area, work eight months out of the year, and have extremely generous benefits and retirement plans that are unheard of in the private sector. Third, while many have “graduate degrees,” these are in programs that you basically need a set of crayons to be able to complete. Most ed. schools are looked down upon by the other departments at colleges and universities, as the students therein are of middling intelligence at best (I’m feeling generous today). They could not receive a remotely comparable compensation package in any other field. They collectively need to GTF over themselves.

      1. Most ed. schools are looked down upon by the other departments at colleges and universities, as the students therein are of middling intelligence at best

        Time was when “teacher training” was considered a vocational school, and was actually a completely separate thing from “higher education.” That’s why, for example, in CA we have two different public university systems – the UC (the “real” universities) and the CSU (originally vocational training for school teachers, and I believe still forbidden from having ‘research-only’ staff and more than a handful of PhD programs).

        1. I can’t help but laugh inside when someone tells me they have a degree in something like early childhood education, or education in general. You mean to tell me you went into massive debt to learn how to be a day care worker? Yikes.

          I get why such things exist, and perhaps they serve a purpose, but it’s laughable such a thing belongs in the context of ‘higher education’.

          And a Ph.D. in ‘education’ is pretty amusing, given that theoretically anyone with a Ph.D. is considered able to teach. It’s one of the most redundant things I can think of.

          1. perhaps they serve a purpose

            Well, in a local NextDoor debate about charters, it’s been pointed out that private schools and charters value those credentials considerably less, and the union talking points are largely oriented around the need to pay more to ensure your teacher is properly “credentialed,” unlike those under-qualified private school teachers people get fooled into preferring.

            Make of that what you will.

            And a Ph.D. in ‘education’ is pretty amusing, given that theoretically anyone with a Ph.D. is considered able to teach. It’s one of the most redundant things I can think of.

            ^ This x 1000. The word “Doctor” is Latin for “Teacher.” It’s literally what the degree is. A PhD in education is “I managed to study a lot without learning anything about any particular subject.”

            I have an uncle with a PhD in education, and this describes him to a ‘t.’


            1. The word “Doctor” is Latin for “Teacher.” It’s literally what the degree is. A PhD in education is “I managed to study a lot without learning anything about any particular subject.”

              Exactly.

              I only say that perhaps such a thing could be considered useful because it can be valuable to learn more about the process of human learning. Sadly for education types, that’s all being done by the much more difficult neurosciences and much better read philosophers who both learned about actual things. All that really leaves education majors is mental masturbation and bureaucracy.

              1. All that really leaves education majors is mental masturbation and bureaucracy.

                And this has been my experience – that a degree in education is essentially a degree in public education bureaucracy.

                I tend to feel the same way about people who have degrees in things like “Public Administration.” The fact that there are such degree programs is, to me, symptomatic of a larger problem.

    2. One thing that seems to never be included in teacher compensation is the value of retirement benefits. When can a teacher retire and how much of a pension does he get? How much money does a teacher need to save/contribute to get that pension? Normal people are dependent on Social Security plus a 401K/IRA, which I think (I don’t really know for sure) is normally less than teacher’s retirement pension.

      1. The teachers in my kids’ public charter are non-union and they’re a two or three years out of college. They’re enthusiastic, energetic and they are perfectly able to teach elementary school students, you don’t need 20 years experience to do that. They’re not there for the pension, in a few years they’ll go to grad school etc, so they cost much less. Teaching should not have to be a career.

        1. Teaching should not have to be a career.

          ^ This. Consistently the worst teachers I have seen are old unionized teachers who have been teaching for 20-30 years and have degenerated into poorly-functioning robots but who are most valued by the unions because they have the most seniority and therefore pay the highest dues.

  7. You can only do so much educating of children – or adults – who start out a full standard deviation below the national mean in intelligence.

    Let’s think about the term ‘functional illiteracy.’ There’s no such thing. There is intelligence so low that reading competence is not possible. The low literacy level that obtains is a result, not a thing of itself. It has been estimated that half of all drug prescriptions are not taken properly, and one third are taken in a way that positively harms the health of the patient. This is the simple result of the inability of the patients to read the instructions on the label of the bottle, or the paper provided by the doctor.

    Many people cannot follow instructions to prepare themselves for medical tests or surgery. This is not an education problem – it’s a lack of native intelligence. And it is very well documented in the scientific literature.

    There are no quick fixes for education, because there are no fixes at all for low native intelligence. It’s not like titties – you can’t buy yourself bigger, better.

    1. That’s a terrible way to describe the lower 50% of our teachers – and most of the administrators – but in my experience, it’s true.

  8. Uniform public schooling for all is a very Progressive notion. The very genesis of the American public school system was in that school of thought. The point was to capture and indoctrinated Young Minds from the start.

    The American public school system was initially designed to create Factory workers. The objective was to train people to show up according to a clock, eat and take breaks according to a clock, learn how to read simple instructions and follow directions. This was because America was an agrarian society at the time, but needed people who could work in large groups in factories instead of by their own schedule on the farm.

    So basically everything Libertarians stand for is anathema to the roots of public education. What with public education being founded in the notion of creating a worker class and indoctrinating them in socialist ideology. The original Vision was that the masses would go to public schools and become the workers. The elites would send their children to private schools and they would become the managers and executives. And the political class.

    If you look at the Democrat Party you can see that this has not changed.

  9. This is all predicated on the assumption that AOC wants to improve schools for educational purposes and not political ones.

    I often wonder what would happen if large numbers of parents in major cities stopped believing everything the teachers unions told them, stormed the school administration offices (not hold up signs outside, but take and hold the building), and demanded changes.

    1. Parents who care and who are able, don’t send their kids to inner city public schools. The ones still sending them there are either indifferent or impotent to change anything.

  10. What AOC did is dumb, no doubt (and no surprise). But public or private, the correlation between income and educational outcomes will always exist. Schools aren’t failing our kids. The number of factors that adversely affect a child’s educational experience are significantly greater for a low income student. Attendance, for example, is significantly lower in low income areas for reasons having to do with home environment, etc. How should a school teach a kid who isn’t present, regardless of the quality of the teaching staff? Additionally, the metrics used to assess student success (in any school community) are narrow and unrealistic. Success should not be measured only by exit exams (regents in NYS), or grade point average, but by career readiness/placement when applicable. These types of factors are all but disregarded at the state and federal level. If a school prepares a student for a successful career making six figures as an electrician, which was his/her goal, then who honestly cares how he/she did on her Shakespeare exam?

    1. which was his/her goal, then who honestly cares how he/she did on her Shakespeare exam?

      Little Johnny needs to be well-rounded. When Little Johnny becomes electrician Johnny, sans Shakespeare, he won’t be able to produce a soliloquy on three phase electric power systems.

      1. I’m sorry, I don’t look down my nose at electricians or manual laborers. And they will be better citizens, parents, voters, and employees if they know more about our culture than Dancing with the Stars. Unfortunately the schools do a horrible job of teaching classics, among other failures.

    2. Well, the Cristo Rey Network deals with inner city kids who come to school with all the problems and disadvantages you describe, but somehow manages to prepare them for college or work.

    3. There’s also the inconvenient fact that intelligence is somewhat a heritable trait, smart parents will have smart kids, and smart parents tend to make more money….

  11. “she’s right to call out a school system” etc.

    When people start “calling out” everything? Why not just criticize, denounce, insult, mock, etc?

    1. Didn’t to “call out” someone originally mean that you were challenging the person to a fight? “Hey, man, I’m calling you out!”

  12. At a Bernie Sanders campaign rally last weekend, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.) inadvertently made a powerful case for educational freedom.

    Is Bernie still running?

  13. The 2020 Democratic primary challengers seem to be pushing the party in a more progressive direction

    Stamping out innovation and buttressing the entrenched status quo. Progress!

  14. It never occurred to me that zip code shaming could be a thing.
    I’m going to start doing that. It’s more insulting than area code shaming.

    1. MY zip code is a prime number!!!

    2. Area code shaming went out with cell phones. My daughter and SIL live in Georgia. She’s still using her Honolulu area code, his phone number is even older, from when they lived in San Antonio.

  15. It sounds like her parents may as well have saved their money.


  16. Giving disadvantaged 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.

    She is essentially arguing for all the school districts to be as bad as the one she managed to escape. She would like to pretend, and may believe, that instead she would be raising up all schools to the level of the best public school. The very fact she might believe this is illustrative of how stupid she truly is, or how dishonest. Take your pick I guess, and ‘both’ is always on the table.

    1. One thing that every “real” socialist regime seems to have figured out is that when it comes to eliminating “inequality”, it’s always been easier to depress those closer to the top than to elevate those at the bottom. As long as enough people are willing to ignore the extent to which those who led the “revolution” (and their descendants, either biological or ideological) have made themselves “more equal” in the process.

      I think that Bernie might be sincere in his apparent belief that this doesn’t need to be the case, but I’m not so sure that the “squad” is even trying to pretend that such a distinction could be pertinent.

      1. Animal Farm was a warning, not an instruction manual, although I suppose it can function as both. Are students no longer reading this in high school, and if they are why don’t they understand it?

        And why is AoC demanding more pay and more funding for a system that can’t teach Animal Farm, which is a pretty shockingly obvious and straight forward historical metaphor?

  17. Would it possibly help to explain to the DSA publicly that every country they claim to want to emulate has a system of school choice with something very much like a “voucher” system in which a family’s “share” of public funding is directed to the school that they choose for their children (with the possible limitation of enrollment capacity), and that a great many of those schools aren’t operated by any level of the government?

    Maybe someone needs to revive those “what we do in Iceland (or in this case, maybe Sweden), pretty much the opposite of what the U.S. does” memes with a focus on one of the many policy issues that would be in direct conflict with leftist orthodoxy; education policy, immigration policy, and tax policy come to mind as fertile ground.

    1. Tax policy like Europe??? WTF!

  18. “But the policy remedies she offers would only make the problems with our education system worse.”

    Considering this in addition to her overall ideology, it sounds like her parent’s gambit didn’t pay off.

  19. Accidental-occasional-cortex is brain dead upon arrival. Has she ever said anything that makes sense, is feasible or that isn’t based on a Marxist agenda? Never. Ignore AOC at all costs.

  20. This will depend on what idea and the thing you will follow to cast the vote for https://www.airplane-pictures.net/photographer.php?p=94416. I think you should have to mark it with the performance of the both sides.