No one is talking about solving Louisiana’s problems. More people are tuning out politics because they are frustrated that elected officials will not work together to solve the state’s most difficult problems and improve the quality of life for all Louisiana families. We are being governed by sound bites and slogans.

Details matter, and public policy is complicated. We need to elect people who are willing to learn about issues, understand the data and appreciate the complexity of these challenges. Serious problems require savvy, committed people working to not just meet the needs of the past, but to create a vibrant future. We need policymakers committed to solving problems.

We need to live in the real world. I don’t know how any politician can talk about how great we are doing. Leaders in Louisiana cannot be satisfied with being nearly last in every national indicator that measures poverty, illiteracy, education, high-school dropouts and teen pregnancies, infant mortality, health outcomes, crime, incarceration, life expectancy, and obesity and just about every other indicator.

We need to foster policies that will promote education, self-sufficiency and economic growth. Louisiana can have economic opportunities, where people can better themselves, their children, their families and their communities through education, hard work and the freedom to climb the ladder of success. But that takes leadership and investment. Louisiana Progress Policy Briefs for legislative candidates outlined the reasons to invest in early childhood, K-12 and higher education, and criminal justice reform.

The racist rhetoric of us vs. them, millionaires vs. the working class and the hatred of the poor will not move Louisiana forward. Public investments are needed to support improved early childhood outcomes, better schools and community supports; to improve public safety; decrease corrections and criminal justice expenditures; decrease poverty; expand the workforce; and ultimately more self-sufficient Louisiana residents will pay taxes.

The interrelated social and economic issues which contribute to poverty, low educational attainment and juvenile crime must be addressed to prepare our youth for higher education and the world of work. We can “pay for it now or pay more for it later.” We know what the problems are, and we know how to solve them.

We cannot be satisfied with being last in every indicator for health, education, poverty. If we don’t get leaders in this election, then we need to start working for the next election. We need to encourage community engagement to recruit candidates for local and state elections. The number of legislators running unopposed is disappointing. We need a vibrant discourse about solutions for Louisiana to progress. We all need to be informed, engaged and mobilized to move Louisiana forward.

Melissa S. Flournoy, Ph.D.

Louisiana Progress

Baton Rouge