MONTGOMERY — Legislation creating the Alabama School of Healthcare Sciences in Demopolis passed the Senate by a 28-3 margin on Thursday.

The House already passed the bill unanimously in April. Gov. Kay Ivey has prioritized the proposal for a health care sciences school in Demopolis for the past two sessions.

Senate Minority Leader Bobby SingIeton (D-Greensboro) said in a statement, "I am honored that the state of Alabama chose my district to house the new school." 

"This school will give communities throughout the state, along with hospitals and doctors' offices a steady stream of trained medical professionals and staff," he added.

New York-based Bloomberg Philanthropies announced in January that it was donating $26.4 million to the state of Alabama to assist in funding the school's start-up costs. The 2024 education supplemental budget contains $15 million for the school. The residential school is scheduled to open in 2026 and eventually provide health care classes and training to 9th through 12th graders.

The idea for the school was first announced by 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 during the session.

The study's authors ranked Demopolis as the number one location for the school, but some legislators were critical of the study's data. Pell City was the second-best site in the study.

"We paid $500,000 for this study. The problem I have is when we met with the team that did this study we told them we know whatever we do it's going to come back with Demopolis," State Sen. Lance Bell (R-Pell City), who voted for the bill, said during debate in the Senate on Thursday. "I'm not faulting Demopolis. I'm taking my hat off and saying Demopolis did a heck of a job. Demopolis came up with this idea. We spent $500,000 for a report that came back that said 80.13% of the parents say school location is very important. The most comfortable location to the parents was Pell City at 72.3%. Demopolis was ranked fourth at 57.4%."

State Sen. April Weaver (R-Brierfield), who voted against the bill, said she was "still a little bit skeptical" about the project.

"I'm not 100% convinced that this concept is the best way to grow our healthcare workforce," Weaver said.

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