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Forum allows public to comment on education reform push

Parents, educators and community members will have a chance tonight to voice their thoughts and concerns to a state education task force that is working to reform education amid limited state and federal funding.

The Oregon Education Investment Board, created by Gov. John Kitzhaber, will hold a forum, one of seven planned statewide this month, from 6 to 8 p.m. at The Commons at North Medford High School, 1900 N. Keene Way Drive.

The forums are an opportunity for the public to provide input on education funding, and will include a presentation by the OEIB on its ambitious goals for education reform.

The board was formed in 2011 and included the creation of a chief education officer position and the Early Learning Council, a statewide committee that focuses on pre-kindergarten education, making sure students are prepared to begin school.

One of the board's goals is to put a focus on education from pre-kindergarten through graduate school.

The board has created a goal to have 100 percent of Oregon students graduate from high school starting in the year 2025.

Also expected is that 40 percent of students will have post-high school training, such as an associate's degree, and another 40 percent will have a four-year college degree, a goal often referred to as 40-40-20.

"They've passed some really ambitious goals," said Karen Starchvick, a parent of a Medford student and an organizer with the education group Stand For Children.

Starchvick said the goals aim very high, especially considering the stagnant economy and the somewhat fixed rate of state education funding.

The venue for tonight's forum will have a family-friendly area for parents and children, and light snacks and refreshments. Anyone who wants to speak can address the board for up to two minutes, with first-come, first-served sign-ups beginning at 5:30 p.m.

Those who can't attend the forum but want to give input to the board can email comments to education.investment@state.or.us. A public webinar on the same topic will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. on the Oregon Department of Education website.

Reach reporter Teresa Ristow at 541-776-4459 or tristow@mailtribune.com.