There was likely no one in the state more elated than I was when Gov. Kay Ivey came out from under the rock whence she was hiding for the last three months to do an absolute about-face on school choice, announcing that her office will work on an Education Savings Account bill. She even went so far to say she wanted Alabama to be the most school-choice friendly state in the nation. 

My neck is still a little sore from the whiplash, but I’ll take it. 

What caused this radical 180-degree turn is anyone’s guess, but school choice is certainly trending favorably across the country and our state. It’s always baffled me that someone in our State House or Senate leadership hasn’t championed a school choice bill purely for political points. That individual would go down in history as the one who changed education in Alabama forever. This baffled me until we at 1819 News discovered the large sums of money the Alabama Education Association gives to Republican candidates. 

I am all in favor of giving credit where credit is due, and assuming the governor’s bill lines up with many of the bills we have seen in states from Arizona to Arkansas, I will laud Ivey for seeing the writing on the wall and doing what is best for this state. School choice will be what she is remembered for, and as such, she is wise to make this shift so she isn’t remembered for all the other debacles that have transpired under her leadership. Debacles the likes of which are hard to wrap one's mind around. Debacles Ivey doesn’t even feel the need to answer for. 

I often find myself wondering what it takes to get fired as a department head in Ivey’s administration. 

Take Alabama Department of Transportation director John Cooper, for instance. Here’s a guy who apparently began building a $120 million unnecessary bridge in Baldwin County that would put another existing bridge company out of business without ever speaking to the governor about it. That existing bridge company is the Baldwin County Bridge Company (BCBC), and they filed an injunction against John Cooper to halt the bridge build. The judge ruled in their favor, issuing a roughly 80-page scathing rebuke saying that Cooper acted in bad faith

To put it simply, Cooper began building the bridge a mile from BCBC’s bridge going over the canal into Orange Beach, apparently out of spite, in an effort to put them out of business because he didn’t like the way negotiations were going with BCBC.

Former gubernatorial candidate and the original builder of the existing bridge, Tim James, said this was “the most egregious case of abuse of power” he has ever seen in the state of Alabama. His dad was the governor, so James has seen some boondoggles in his lifetime. James and his partners sold the Baldwin County Bridge Company in 2006, so he has no financial interest in how this case turns out, but he certainly has a unique perspective. 

The Supreme Court denied Cooper’s motion to continue construction while the case was being appealed. That means Scott Bridge Company, the group that intended to build the bridge for Cooper, is in a very bad situation

Cooper has a reputation for being a bully. For example, when former State Sen. Bill Holtzclaw put up a billboard in his district pushing back against the gas tax, Cooper retaliated by shutting down ALDOT projects in Huntsville. Imagine the impact of stopping massive projects in the fastest growing area in our state, all because of a personal vendetta. This is a pattern for Cooper. 

If all that wasn’t enough, shortly after the Supreme Court denied Cooper's motion to continue building while the case was worked out in appeals, he was arrested for threatening to shoot his neighbor in Marshall County. Cooper was trying to prevent his new neighbor from passing through his property on an easement that had been used for 20 years by the previous owner from whom the neighbor purchased his land. Apparently, Cooper wanted to buy the property, and when he wasn’t able to, he retaliated by making the new neighbor’s life as difficult as possible, threating to shoot the neighbor when he spoke up. 

Again, this is a pattern. 

To my knowledge, Ivey still has not said a word about any of this. Cooper still has his job while he awaits the appeal on the bridge ruling and the criminal trial for his harassment/intimidation charges. 

It's bad enough that these things are happening on Ivey’s watch. It's worse that nothing is being done about it. 

But hey, at least she is working on school choice for next session.

Bryan Dawson is CEO of 1819 News. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to

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