Two of the United States' largest banks pulled out of a Florida education voucher program as it benefitted anti-LGBTQ+ schools.
Wells Fargo and Fifth Third Bank are pulling their funding into Florida's private school voucher program after investigations revealed several beneficiary schools uphold policies that discriminate against students who belong to the LGBTQ+ community. This means the voucher program will potentially lose millions of dollars in donations. Wells Fargo confirmed that they would be withdrawing from the program in an official statement published on Wednesday evening, NBC News reports. Fifth Third Bank similarly posted a statement to Twitter. Though both banks have pro-LGBTQ policies within their companies, they now, unfortunately, risk losing beneficial write-offs on their state tax bills.
Wells Fargo's official statement was delivered to both NBC News as well as CNBC. It read, "We have reviewed this matter carefully and have decided to no longer support Step Up for Students." Step Up for Students is the voucher program that helps administer five scholarships for schoolchildren based in Florida. The statement continued, "All of us at Wells Fargo highly value diversity and inclusion, and we oppose discrimination of any kind." Fifth Third Bank too issued an official statement, which read, "We have communicated with program officials that we will not be contributing again until more inclusive policies have been adopted by all participating schools to protect the sexual orientation of all our students."
Wells Fargo and Fifth Third Bank said they will stop donating millions to Florida's voucher program after an investigation found many of the schools have anti-LGBTQ policies #NOH8 https://t.co/rsVhh70MF9— NOH8 Campaign (@NOH8Campaign) January 30, 2020
The banks' decisions come after an investigation by The Orlando Sentinel discovered that 156 private Christian schools with anti-gay views provided education to more than 20,000 students across the state of Florida - with tuition paid for by the state's taxpayers. Of these 156 schools, 83 of them do not permit those in the LGBTQ+ community to enroll as students. Some unfairly discriminate against students with parents in the community. The Sentinel reported last week, "Florida's scholarship programs, often referred to as school vouchers, sent more than $129 million to these religious institutions. That means at least 14 percent of Florida's nearly 147,000 scholarship students last year attended private schools where homosexuality was condemned or, at a minimum, unwelcome."
Fifth Third Bank, which has been contributing to a FL voucher fund in exchange for tax credits, announced it is suspending contribution after learning that many of the schools discriminate against gay students/gay parents. https://t.co/L5MbLCiEQu— Gene Bryant (@GeneBryant2) January 30, 2020
In a separate post, The Sentinel identified five companies with pro-LGBTQ+ policies that actively donated to the voucher program. In addition to Wells Fargo and Fifth Third Bank, the report identified Southern Glazer's Wine & Spirits, Waste Management Inc., and Geico. Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith, the state's first LGBTQ Latino legislator, thus called Fifth Third Bank out in a tweet. He wrote, "'Companies have the same choice in front of them. People are watching to see what they do. Or what they don’t do.' That means YOU, Fifth Third Bank. Marching in Orlando Pride while also funding anti-LGBTQ schools is NOT okay!" With this in mind, perhaps Wells Fargo and Fifth Third Bank made the right decision. However, this will also affect numerous students' ability to go to school and receive the education that they deserve. Florida must thus create a policy to help fund school education that also allows companies to choose schools that align with their liberal principles.