Are we really ready to get serious about violent crime in New Orleans? Or will we continue to bemoan Starbucks not being able to sell its overpriced skinny vanilla lattes on Canal Street or the closing of a handful of restaurants that have made crime the scapegoat for what, at the end of the day, amounts to a business decision. The fate of Starbucks is not a valid measure of the problems that New Orleans faces. In fact, we don’t want to hear one more thing about some restaurant closing its doors for good amid so-called concerns about rising crime.

Talk about missing the entire point. Hey, here’s a thought: Instead of focusing on the perceived challenges that violence in New Orleans creates, how about we hone in on the issues that create violence.

A recent headline in the local daily read, “New Orleans 2022 murder rate likely leads nation”.

Well, that is an interesting spot for the word “likely”. Translations:

  • New Orleans murder rate might lead the nation in 2022.
  • It is possible that New Orleans murder leads the nation in 2022.
  • It is probable that New Orleans murder rate leads the nation in 2022.

We are not entirely sure when major daily newspapers started printing probabilities as hard news, but don’t worry. We have some facts for you.

  • Fact: At more than 18 percent, Louisiana has the second highest poverty rate in the entire country.
  • Fact: The minimum wage across the state is still $7.25 an hour. (Perhaps, the NOLA Coalition might consider using its influence and some of the money it’s raising to lobby the state legislature to do right by Louisiana’s working people and raise the minimum wage.)
  • Fact: Nearly 24 percent of New Orleanians live at or below the poverty line, according to the most recent Census data.
  • Fact: At 33 percent, the poverty rate among Black New Orleanians is even higher.

Do we want a safer city? Do we want to see violent crime curtailed in New Orleans? You better believe it! And we want violent criminals off of the streets just as bad as any one else. See, the thing is, we don’t want the violence in our streets now or 20 years from now. And unless we start making policy decisions that improve education outcomes, create economic equity and eradicate poverty in New Orleans and across the state, that is just what we are in for – a never-ending cycle of crime and violence.

That is why in 2023, we are lifting up two words. The first one is “truth”. The other is “consequences”. The truth is that our issues with crime and violence are the consequences of failing to invest in, protect and prepare the young people for the future. The crime and violence are the consequences of poverty, economic inequity, holes in mental health care, a failed education system, and affordable housing crisis exacerbated by bad policy decisions and unchecked gentrification. And until our leaders are ready to address those issues, they are talking loud and doing nothing.

We just can’t shake déjà vu. It feels like we have said this before. Oh well, we’ll keep saying it. There are many truths and consequences to examine. We will start here:

TRUTH

The takeover of public education in New Orleans has been a disaster. Taxpayer funded facilities and resources were pillaged and plundered by corporate raiders masquerading as education advocates and reformers. Neighborhood schools were eradicated and OUR children were bussed all over the city to failing schools. Instead of accepting the failure of this reform, its leaders dug in. New Orleans became an all-charter school system and a group of independently operated charter campuses led by unelected boards were “returned” to the “control” Orleans Parish School Board.

Nearly 54 percent of the schools in the all-charter NOLA Public Schools earned D or F ratings in the 2022 School Performance Scores. Another 26.4 percent are barely getting by with C ratings. In fact, if the same standard that was intentionally changed to takeover and destroy public education in Orleans Parish in 2005 were applied to the 65 public charter schools operating under NOLA Public Schools today, a full 61 of those schools would be considered failing by the state right now.

CONSEQUENCE

According to a report by Stanford University, some 26,000 New Orleanians between the ages of 16 and 24 are considered “disconnected” because they are neither working nor in school. There was no miracle—just a mirage, and now we are in a mess. Are some of those disconnected youth responsible for the violence in our streets? Well, let’s just say that it’s likely . . .

We are not delusional. There are no easy answers to addressing violent crime. It’s a complex problem. It will require a complex and multi-faceted solution that addresses everything from housing to healthcare, from economic equity to equity in education. We could start by reversing the damage done to our public education system.

The New Orleans Tribune

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