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Help Stand for Children on Saturday

In anticipation of drastic cuts at public schools throughout the state, Stand for Children education advocacy group is asking the public to give feedback to state lawmakers and school officials on their priorities for education at an education summit Saturday.

The summit, at Central Library, 205 S. Central Ave., Medford, kicks off with a panel discussion by state Reps. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, and Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point, co-chairmen of the state legislative Joint Ways & Means Committee; Paulie Brading, Medford School Board member; Brad Earl, Medford schools chief financial officer; and Dana Hepper, Stand for Children's advocacy director, about what the state can do to support education and children.

(Correction: This story has been updated to include the location of the summit.)

"It's so exciting that two Southern Oregon legislators are responsible for the House side of writing the state budget," said Steve Neuberger, a Stand for Children organizer in Jackson County. "It will be a great perspective on how education will fit in the state budget and how we can make a difference."

The summit continues with workshops on lobbying for school funding in the state Legislature, how to support educators, identifying priorities for the Medford schools budget and how to recruit and elect School Board members.

The summit leads up to a trio of 90-minute community budget forums the Medford School District has planned for Feb. 3, 5 and 8, during which officials hope to learn more about what the public values most in public education.

Medford schools officials expect funding cuts of up to 20 percent in their district, which serves about 12,500 pupils. They expect to carve out $10 million to $14 million from their current $90 million budget, once state funding levels are finalized.

Similar funding losses are expected at public school districts around the state, largely due to persistent unemployment and the resulting loss of income tax revenue. The state estimates it will be $3.5 billion short of providing enough funding to continue existing services.

"The reality is this is what we are facing across the state," said Medford schools Superintendent Phil Long. "It's a wake-up call for everyone."

"It's so important that people in the community step in and share their opinions, views and table what are their priorities for their schools," Neuberger said. "This is so important to the whole community."

"It's about protecting our future," he said.

Stand for Children organizers will take some of the community feedback to a rally on the Capitol steps at noon Feb. 21, he said.

Medford School Board Member Paulie Brading said Stand for Children, which operates in nine states, has been replacing the PTO/PTA model.

"It's like a PTO on steroids," she said. "They go straight to the Legislature (about their concerns and requests)."

More information about the Medford School District budget is available at medford.k12.or.us.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or e-mail pachen@mailtribune.com.