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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.
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