“I think we’re going to have some success,” said Jim Bob and Michelle Johnson, who were born and raised in the state and are now the parents of six children.
“I’m not going to say we’re over here, but we’re definitely going to be here.”
They have three more children, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren in the family.
They are still working to keep up with their own children’s education, but it’s been a long and fulfilling journey.
Jim Bob Johnson, pictured here with his two sons, was a high school teacher and a former Navy pilot, but he was a little older than his eldest son, who is a Navy veteran and now works as a paramedic.
“He’s the coolest kid you ever met,” Jim Bob said of his son.
“We’re really fortunate.”
The family, which was once one of Alabama’s wealthiest, is now in a difficult financial position.
The Johnson family has been the subject of numerous lawsuits and has been sued by the state for tax evasion, but most recently the state settled a $1.4 million tax claim that was filed in February by Jim Bob’s father.
“That was the best decision we could have made,” Jim said.
“Our financial situation is stable.”
The Johnson’s are in a similar position as the rest of the state: They have the money to pay for their own education and some money for their children’s college, but they also have no other way to make ends meet.
The family was one of more than $5 billion in taxpayers’ refunds paid out to Alabamians during the recession.
The state has spent more than a billion dollars on higher education, the Johnsons said.
That includes a $10 million increase in scholarships and grants, and nearly $1 billion for public schools.
In January, Jim Bob, who has been a teacher for 15 years, announced that he was stepping down as the school board president to become a professor at the University of Alabama.
He has held that position since 2013.
The $10.4 billion is being used to pay down debt, invest in infrastructure and increase state services, but Jim Bob is keeping a close eye on the future.
“It’s a bit of a slow burn, but I think there’s a lot of good things that are coming,” Jim told CNN.
“The things that we are most concerned about are the things that will be left over from the recession.”
He said the state has also taken steps to ensure that Alabamanians are able to access health care and education, both of which are critical to the state’s future.
Jim said that he and Michelle would continue to work with the state, but that they’re working with the education department to set up a scholarship fund to help lower-income students pay for college.
“My goal is to be able to help those kids,” he said.