A Facebook Live video from 2017 just surfaced, showing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez admitting that she got her goddaughter into a public charter school in New York City. I am proud of her for helping a child find a good education and happy for her goddaughter for getting into a public charter school. But Ocasio-Cortez should step up and fight for educational options for all families. Instead, she has encouraged efforts to limit access to school choice for others.
Last year, for example, Ocasio-Cortez promoted the teachers strike in Los Angeles, calling for more funding for government schools and more restrictions for their charter school competitors. She said she was inspired by the union’s fight to “protect local public schools from privatization.” She is also a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, which explicitly advocates for getting rid of public charter schools altogether.
Despite publicly promoting efforts to limit school choice for others, however, it is entirely possible that Ocasio-Cortez has a soft spot for public charter schools privately.
In October, at a campaign rally for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, she explained how her family had to make “a really hard decision” to move to another residence so that she could get access to a better government school. She then, perhaps unknowingly, made a powerful case for school choice when she lamented the fact that she lives in “a country who allows their kids’ destiny to be determined by the zip code they are born in.”
Ocasio-Cortez is absolutely right: ZIP code shouldn’t determine your future. ZIP code shouldn’t determine access to a good education, either.
But in the traditional government school system, students are usually assigned to schools based on where they live. School choice allows families to take their children’s education dollars to whatever school works best for them, regardless of their ZIP code. Charter schools give families in need additional educational options.
Ocasio-Cortez seems to understand the value of public charter schools. She got her goddaughter into a public charter school in New York City. That’s great. But now she could be a true leader and fight for expanding educational options for everyone else. Given much of the Democratic Party has been recently fighting against charter schools, that would be a bold and courageous move by Ocasio-Cortez. More importantly, it would be the right thing to do.
This column originally appeared in the Washington Examiner.