On a Sunday morning, I wake up around ten in the morning and I begin to get ready for work. I climb the stairs to the kitchen and pour myself a bowl of cereal that my mother has purchased at the store. After breakfast, I put on my uniform which was bought at a JC Penny. I grab my keys to our fully paid off 2001 Ford F-150 and make my way towards my job. As I head down 84th Street, I see the Midlands Hospital on my right. I pass the new Shadow Lake shopping center, which consistently gets customers of every age and demographic. I turn onto 36th Street and head for Omaha. About the time I hit Q Street, the streets and sidewalks look significantly dingy and broken apart in comparison to their Papillion counterparts. Conditions don't improve as I push on towards L Street and turn into the parking lot of the Stockyards Plaza Hy-Vee.
What is it that makes these two communities so different? The answer to that question is very complex, for it has many contributing factors. The average person in South Omaha's salary is much less than that of the Papillion area is. The percent of families below the poverty level is much higher than the state's average. Businesses in the area make less money than those of other parts of the state as well.
Crime problems in the urban South Omaha community are undoubtedly linked to poor education. According to CityData.com, school enrollment by grade level takes a drop in the 5th to 8th grade range and again in the 9th to 12th grade range. This essentially means that middle and high school dropouts are common within this community. The educational attainment is also much less than that of the Papillion community; in Papillion, the number of people earning some sort of college degree is much higher than the Nebraska state average. Not only is the number of people achieving collegiately in Omaha much less than the state average, but its number of people with less than a high school education is far, far above the state average.
Another factor contributing to crime in Omaha is the heightened number of broken homes in comparison to rural communities. Approximately 17.3 percent of people of parental age (30 years to 55 years old) are divorced. This number is staggering in comparison to Papillion, in which, 7.3 percent of parental aged people are divorced. Broken homes contribute to crime because the children of divorce are more likely to drop out of school, join gangs, or embark on a drug addiction. Parents DO have to set a good example, and that clearly seems to be a problem within the Omaha community. All of these problems are clearly linked together and affect one another. Fixing some of them but not all of them would not result in the improvement of the community, but would take it back down to what it was before. This is true because the problems I have listed above that are left unfixed would rub off on the ones that are fixed and make them a problem again. For this reason, any community reform plan should cover all of these problems rather than just simply covering one of them at a time.
The most important part of any reform plan put into place would undoubtedly be education reform. Students with a more satisfying academic experience would be less likely to drop out of school, and therefore, less vulnerable to joining a gang. Less gang members means fewer gangs, and fewer gangs means less crime.
In order to hire more adequate teachers, government funding should be increased in these problem areas to increase teacher salaries so that better teachers are more inclined to get a job in these schools. Along with acquitting better educators, the added government funding would provide improvements to the schools themselves. It would buy them better books, better computers, and would help to improve facilities to make the students more proud of their school. Pride in the schools would also increase pride in the students' education. Included in this reform program, I would use funding to create a program similar to the health program in Papillion's middle schools. I feel that this program would teach the students more about how to deal with problems, and how to avoid early pregnancy. The reason for this program is not just to create more aware people, but to create more able parents. With a stronger health program, there would be fewer divorces in the future.Overall, education reform would eventually improve the area's average family income, because a educated worker is going to make more money than an uneducated worker.
One problem not addressed by education is unemployment due to less jobs being available in the city. The city government should take advantage of the unemployed and help them at the same time by creating jobs for them. These jobs could benefit both the unemployed and the community. These jobs would include rebuilding the city's roads, rebuilding the schools, and other construction projects to improve the city.
The problems that I have discussed are not just true for Omaha, but for most of the urban areas across the country. The majority of these problems could be solved by using increased government funding to improve education, create jobs, and build a better community. An expensive solution? Yes. Is it worth it? I believe it is, because reform in cities across America will increase the output of a great nation.