Shattering Glass Ceilings: An Excerpt from “Modern Davids”
BY JUSTIN OWEN
In celebration of Beacon’s 20th Anniversary, Beacon President and CEO Justin Owen wrote a book called Modern Davids: Celebrating 20 Years with 20 Stories of Everyday Tennesseans Fighting Big Government. We will be sharing an excerpt from the book each month to tell you more about our heroes. The book will be released on February 20, 2024. You can secure your copy by clicking here.
Roxanne Glass knows exactly why parents need educational options. When she was growing up, she was bullied in school. She knows that without options, she could not prevent her five-year-old daughter Nicole from experiencing the same fate. Unfortunately, with her oldest daughter heading to college as Nicole entered Kindergarten, she didn’t have the resources to pay for both of their educational expenses.
Roxanne herself had almost dropped out of school due to bullying. Unlike her own experience, she says, “I wanted my children to have a voice, and I wanted them to have a future.”
She knew that she could do that thanks to Tennessee’s new Education Savings Accounts, or ESA, program. The ESA program was passed in 2019 to give families in the worst performing school districts a choice. They could take a portion of the funding we already spend on their child’s education and use it to send them to a school that better fits their needs and provide wrap-around educational services.
The accounts—currently at just under $9,000 a year—operate similar to health savings accounts that millions of Americans enjoy. Once deposited into their account, parents can use the funds to pay for private school tuition, tutoring, educational therapy, and a variety of other preapproved expenses. Unused money can be rolled over into a 529 account to help pay for that child’s college.
Nicole, one of the first participants in the new ESA program, wants to be a doctor. “She wants to help people, and my dream for her is to know that she can do it regardless of what anybody says,” Roxanne explains. “Everybody deserves options. For me it’s the confidence that I want my children to have, confidence that I didn’t have.”
In the fall of 2023, the first full year the program was available to families, more than 2,000 children were utilizing an ESA. That’s thousands of children like Nicole whose parents can now chart a new destiny for them and who would otherwise be stuck in schools that couldn’t meet their needs.
Roxanne will continue to stand up for her daughter and the thousands of others being helped by educational choice. “Doors can be opened. Generational curses can be broken. The ESA program is helping me do that…I will fight for this program as much as possible.” Beacon will continue to stand by Roxanne and all Tennessee families who’ve experienced new horizons thanks to ESAs.