On Wednesday, CNBC and NBC News broke the news that two of the most substantial banks in America – Wells Fargo and Fifth Third Bank – stopped donating money to Florida’s private school voucher program after the discovery of anti-LGBTQ policies within the programs beneficiaries. On Thursday, CNBC broke news that Wyndham Destinations joined Wells Fargo and Fifth Third Bank in saying they will also stop donating to the program.
Wells Fargo provided a statement to CNBC, which states: “We have reviewed this matter carefully and have decided to no longer support Step Up for Students, all of us at Wells Fargo highly value diversity and inclusion, and we oppose discrimination of any kind.”
Fifth Third Bank also confirmed they will no longer participate with the voucher program: “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.”
BREAKING: @FifthThird bank announces they will pull $5.4M in contributions to the private school voucher program @StepUp4Students that funds anti-LGBTQ schools. We applaud @FifthThird for supporting EQUALITY!! 1/2 https://t.co/GsHtrzvcAe
— Rep. Carlos G Smith (@CarlosGSmith) January 28, 2020
According to NBC News, Waste Management is “investigating this issue before we make further funding decisions.”
On January 23rd, the Orlando Sentinel released the shocking results of an investigation which found LGBTQ discrimination within over 150 private Christian schools. These schools educate more than 20,000 students throughout the state with tuition funded by Florida taxpayers.
The Sentinel detailed the investigation and reported: “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.” The Sentinel confirmed that 83 schools with anti-LGBTQ views deny attendance of LGBTQ students and parents.
The Sentinel also found that companies with pro-LGBTQ policies — including Fifth Third Bank, Wells Fargo, Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, and Waste Management Inc. — received write-offs on their state tax bills after donating to the voucher program. Although the companies lose the tax write-off for donations, the decision to not contribute to the school voucher programs are definite until policies are changed.
Shortly after the announcement of the Orlando Sentinel investigation, Wyndham Destinations joined the list of companies to stop donating to the voucher programs stating: “As we have not seen any further action to address our concerns, we are today discontinuing our support and funding for Step Up For Students and hope that the organization will quickly work with the Florida Legislature to immediately end any discriminatory practices existing within the voucher program.”
In 2019, Florida state Senator Darryl Rouson pre-filed a bill that would forbid advantages to private schools that refuse acceptance to students based on “race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, disability, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity”. The bill has not been considered by the Legislature.
Thank you to the @orlandosentinel for putting sunshine on FL’s voucher program and its funding of discrimination.
And thank you @CarlosGSmith for asking pro-equality businesses to put their money where their values are.
— Equality Florida (@equalityfl) January 30, 2020