(Photo by David Greedy/Getty Images)

Two moral issues will confront the 105 minds we send to Pierre in January. How the legislature responds to these issues will tell us a lot about who they are and whether we made the right decision by selecting them to lead us.
The first is teacher pay. Yes, it is about money, but it is about much more than that. It is about the future of our state and the children we want to stay here, be productive, and be a part of solutions to tomorrow’s problems.
Will the legislature rise above their personal prejudices about taxpayer funded wages and elevate the teaching profession from a job to a sought after career? We complain about kids not being able to make change, not being able to talk without saying, “you know, like” and about so many of them leave here as soon as they can.
One of the reasons for these problems is we SETTLE.

We don’t aspire to greatness. We accept the status quo as "good enough."

Settling plays out everywhere in our state. In our classrooms, teachers aren’t revered, respected, or compensated for the vital work they do. We settle. They settle. The kids settle.

This year our elected leaders can stop settling. They can take bold steps to improve teacher pay, which will improve morale, which will improve teacher energy, which will improve the results we want from our children. It can be a wonderful uplifting cycle.

The second is expanding Medicaid. Several thousand employed South Dakotans make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough money to qualify for subsidies to afford insurance. The lack of coverage for those folks impacts all of us in negative ways. Rather than regular health care provider contact, folks without insurance visit emergency rooms for help with their chronic conditions. Work can be missed because of the lack of preventative health care.

The lack of insurance also keeps people in poverty. It is hard to rise up when time, energy, and the little money poor people have, needs to deal with chronic medical issues. If you’ve been to a gas station, stayed at a hotel, stopped at a fast-food restaurant – you’ve encountered the working poor that Medicaid expansion would help.

This issue should NOT be about liking or not liking “Obamacare.” It should be about lifting our friends, family, and fellow citizens up by giving them a chance to succeed and ultimately cost us less money.

Both of these issues will offer us insight. Will party labels, tight-fisted conservatives, and people who can’t see past the next election, prevail? Or will in depth long term thinking, common sense, passion, and compassion rise to the top?

The resolution of these two issues will determine the direction of our state for the next 25 years.

Will our leaders, actually lead us from the bottom to a higher place on the ladder of success?

Or will we again,

“Settle”