Fifth Third Bank reverses decision, will continue to donate to school voucher program

By : Samantha Neely
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ORLANDO | Fifth Third Bank has decided to reverse their original decision to pull out of Florida’s school program after it was reported that the money goes back to private schools that discriminate against LGBTQ students and employees.  

The financial institution released a statement on Feb. 7 saying that after conducting a comprehensive review of the program, they decided that they could “continue to support it, while adhering to our core values.” 

Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith shared a link to the Orlando Sentinel’s reporting Feb. 7, along with a tweet reading “Corporations sent a loud and clear message that they want lawmakers to end discrimination against LGBTQ students. It has become clear that companies are being given private assurances that change is happening … Let’s continue to work together to ensure those changes actually materialize to ensure voucher-funded private schools are open to all students.”

It is unknown what “private assurances” on changes in donations or program Smith is speaking about.

Fifth Third Bank was one of the first companies to publicly dismiss their support of the program after the Sentinel published its article detailing the state’s Step Up for Students voucher system and exposed how $129 million in school vouchers went to 156 private Christian schools with anti-LGBTQ views. The story also discussed how companies, like Fifth Third Bank, were donating to the voucher program simply for a tax write-off. They donated around $5.4 million a year and claimed they provided 2,500 scholarships for kids.  

After being called out by Smith and Rep. Anna V. Eskamani on social media for funding the program, Fifth Third Bank tweeted at Smith on Jan.28, “We definitely stand with #LGBTQ students and parents. 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. (And we will see you at the next @OrlandoPride!)” 

Some state representatives voiced their support online for Fifth Third Bank’s decision to reinstate donations to the voucher program.

“I celebrate the announcement by Fifth-Third Bank, which will bolster education opportunities for those who need it most – low-income minority students,” Rep. Patricia Williams said in a tweet.

  

Rep. Wengay Newton, who attended a rally at the Florida Capital last week of more than 100 black and Hispanic religious leaders and supporters to show support for program, also voiced support on Twitter.

“I want to thank Fifth Third Bank for once again participating in the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program. Thanks for breaking the school-to-prison pipeline that has left far too many of our low-income black and Hispanic students with bleak futures,” he tweeted.  

Allegiant Air, Rosen Resorts, Wyndham Resorts, Cigar City Brewing, Wells Fargo and ABC Fine Wines and Spirits have all pulled out the program since Fifth Third bank did so and have continued to not donate.

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