New York Gov. David Paterson announced during a visit to Ithaca Oct. 10 that he had signed a bill into law Sept. 26 creating the New York State Center for Rural Schools to be operated by Cornell. The center is the first of its kind in the nation to be created by a state.
The goal of the center will be to work with the state and New York's 356 rural school districts (of which nearly half are considered high need). It's expected that the center will become a hub for information and services specifically targeted to serve rural schools and communities across New York state. It also will facilitate research on the interplay between community and economic development, school organization and improvement, short- and long-term educational outcomes and labor markets and will disseminate research findings, information, materials and best practices.
The legislation was sponsored by State Sen. George Winner (R-Elmira) and Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton (D-Ithaca); both are members of the Legislative Commission on Rural Resources.
"The center could play a key role in upstate revitalization," said John W. Sipple, associate professor of education in the New York State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell and director of the new center. "It will seek to facilitate debate and expertise, build capacity for data analysis and sponsor applied research to assist rural schools, their communities and the state.
"The new center will make Cornell a stronger partner in helping to improve rural schools, which are critical to the futures of rural children and to the prosperity and vitality of rural communities."
Paterson's main purpose in coming to Ithaca was to announce funding for home-heating assistance for poor and elderly citizens.
The rural schools center will be funded during its first year with $250,000 from the state, said Sipple, noting that he and Cornell colleagues will seek long-term state and private funding.
"The establishment of the Center for Rural Schools at Cornell dovetails perfectly with the school reforms and new funding coming from the state," said Lifton. "These reforms will allow and encourage our schools to be more robust, productive centers for the whole community. That is especially crucial in rural areas, where the school is already at the hub of community life but is often underutilized. The research and outreach from this new center will be critical in helping to actually implement those changes that are so necessary to the success of our schools and the revitalization of rural upstate."