New York-based Bloomberg Philanthropies announced on Wednesday they were donating $26.4 million to the state of Alabama to assist in funding a potential new health sciences high school in Demopolis. 

According to a news release from Bloomberg Philanthropies, founded by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, the donation is contingent on the project receiving a certain level of state funding.

The donation is part of a $250 million initiative to create multiple new high schools around the nation that will "graduate students directly into high-demand healthcare jobs with family-sustaining wages." 

Each school, whether newly established through this initiative or a revamp of an existing school, will offer students academic programming, specialized healthcare classes, work-based learning at the partner health system and the opportunity to earn credentials and certifications. 

Upon graduation, students can enter healthcare jobs within the partner healthcare system or choose to advance their healthcare career through post-secondary education. As part of this initiative, all health system partners have committed to providing job opportunities for students who complete the graduation requirements of their respective programs.

"For too long, our education system has failed to prepare students for good jobs in high-growth industries," said Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and Bloomberg L.P. and 108th mayor of New York City. "By combining classroom learning with hands-on experience, these specialized healthcare high schools will prepare students for careers with opportunities for growth and advancement. America needs more healthcare workers, and we need a stronger, larger middle class — and this is a way to help accomplish both goals."

Bloomberg listed the "University of Alabama at Birmingham Health System and other state health systems and hospitals" as the school's health care partners and estimated it would be open by at least 2026.

The idea for the school was first announced by Gov. Kay Ivey in her State of the State address before the legislative session in 2023. However, a $30 million funding request for start-up funding by Ivey to the Legislature never advanced in the 2023 session. Instead, legislators approved a $500,000 feasibility study to examine establishing such a school.

"I am grateful to Bloomberg Philanthropies for supporting the vision of the Alabama School of Healthcare Sciences," Ivey said in a statement to 1819 News. "This first-of-its-kind school will provide Alabama students with career pathways in health care and will serve as a solution to the healthcare workforce shortage across all of rural Alabama. I look forward to working with the Legislature during the 2024 legislative session to make this vision a reality."

Last year, officials estimated the start-up costs for the school would be $62 million.

State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), who chairs the Senate Education Budget Committee, told 1819 News the consultant working on the feasibility study is reviewing sites around the state for the potential school.

The consultant is investigating whether the school's concept is viable and sustainable. Families are being surveyed by the consultant about whether students and parents would be interested in the school, according to Orr. He said the Alabama School of Healthcare Sciences supporters are requesting $30 million from the state.

"We can't spend this kind of money and hope that students will just show up to justify the exceptional expenditure and long-term funding commitment," Orr said.

According to a news release, Bloomberg Philanthropies' investment will support school start-up costs, including personnel needs and classroom and lab renovations.

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