Our state is failing education.

It is easy to spread the blame for this failure. However, it is not because of the overworked teachers making do with less, or the administrators facing extreme budget reductions in the face of increased demands.

This failure is definitely not because of a lack of desire to learn and explore by countless students throughout the state. Education is filled with highly qualified and passionate educators and administrators who want only the best possible opportunities and learning outcomes for students.

Education is failing in spite of those.

The grumbling about testing, class sizes, funding, discipline — the list goes on and on — has been around for years. But each election cycle it seems like those legitimate complaints fall on deaf ears, only mentioned in passing by candidates as a means to enter office during elections. The reality is that many of these officials are generally so far removed from the actual issues in the daily classroom; how could they possibly know what is best for education?

I’m asking educators to change that this year. When educators vote, we express what we, the experts in education, know to be important and needed for our students and schools.

We teach our students to be critical thinkers. We ask them to look at a system and recognize how one part impacts the whole. Education is no different, and we are missing an important piece in the system — your vote!

If the system isn’t working, then something within it needs to change. As educators, we can create that change.

We can engage with policymakers on the district, local and state level. We can advocate for ourselves, our students and our community.

Most importantly, this Nov. 4 we can vote.

Teachers wear many hats. One I know we all take great pride in is “role model.” We act in a way that we want our students to act and our biggest hope is that we serve as someone that they strive to be like.

I want my students to know that I value my profession and I value myself enough to speak up about it. I want my students to know that I do not have to sit back and watch from afar. I can participate and be the impetus for change.

Arizona’s average public school teacher salary is well below the national average — $49,885 compared to $56,103. These are numbers that represent a snapshot of what teachers are earning. I know many teachers, including myself, that earn a salary far below the average. I pledge to do my part to change that by voting.

Arizona’s average per student spending is also below the national average — $6,949 compared to $10,938. I pledge to do my part to change that by voting.

I’ve worked in Tucson Unified School District for six years as a middle school teacher. I love my job. I love sharing my passion for science with my students. I appreciate my dedicated colleagues.

But something needs to change. And it needs to start with us.

If educators don’t stand up for education, who will?

Join me and vote on Nov. 4.

Lisa Kist teaches science at Gridley Middle School.