A Dec. 9 article outlined panelists’ recommendations for reducing the murder rate in New Orleans; a Dec. 10 article announced Louisiana would receive $32 million from the federal government for early childhood education.

Irony.

Panelists at the mayor’s symposium offered suggestions for reducing violent crime in New Orleans: increase economic and educational opportunities for the black community; bring justice to the streets; restore hope (“… a lack of hope among many young black men in the city often leads them to violence”); provide jobs; address zero-tolerance school policies that force young men out of schools and onto the streets; and so forth.

With all due respect to the expertise of the panelists offering this advice, these ideas are too little, too late.

Steve Perry, of Capital Prep Magnet School, said, “The result is a large population of mostly illiterate people who can’t read the simplest documents and in turn cannot find meaningful work.”

The self-perpetuating reality of uneducated, poverty-laden mothers having children with or without a partner will continue to cause the dire situation of violent crime in New Orleans unless and until the needs — academic, health and social — of those children and their families are fully addressed. ONLY this will break the vicious cycle and give kids a chance.

The solution is right here in our community! The Childhood and Family Learning Foundation, founded by Phyllis Landrieu, now in its ninth year, has had a direct, positive influence on 19,209 children.

In the last school year alone, the Childhood and Family Learning Foundation identified 39 percent of the children it served in high-poverty schools as failing a vision screening. Our most high-risk children not only have to overcome all of the hardships that come with living in poverty, but how can we expect them to do so when they don’t have the most basic care to ensure they can see?

Children with vision problems don’t understand the limitations on their learning experience — they just know the other children are smarter than they are. Bored because they can’t participate, they get off-task and create distractions. Now, not only are they not smart, they’re also having behavior problems. These children grow older and fall farther behind. That is precisely where the no-hope feeling, mentioned by U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite, sets in.

What are we waiting for? As the old question asks, “Is it better to put a barricade at the top of the cliff or an ambulance at the bottom?”

It is past time for us to embrace, endorse and provide early childhood education and basic school-based health interventions for all children. Any other recommended solution to our crime problem is the “ambulance at the bottom.” It’s too late.

Carol Allen

former superintendent for elementary schools, Orleans Parish schools

New Orleans