Florida's Education Department objects to reports that voucher program funds schools with anti-LGBTQ policies

Florida's Education Department objects to reports that voucher program funds schools with anti-LGBTQ policies
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Florida’s Department of Education is objecting to the Orlando Sentinel investigation that found its voucher program funded schools with anti-LGBTQ policies. 

The Sentinel investigation from last month discovered that through the program, Florida taxpayer money funded 156 private Christian schools that hold anti-gay views, with 83 schools not allowing gay students. The newspaper’s reporting sparked several donors to the scholarship program to jump ship. 

The state’s education department alleged the article “misrepresents” the scholarship program that helps 100,000 students from low-income families, a majority of which are minority students, according to a statement obtained by The Hill on Wednesday night.

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The statement says the department has not been informed of any children being denied admission or expelled from these schools based on their sexual identity. 

“What is happening in this situation, is that a few at the Orlando Sentinel have always taken issue with programs that are proven to continually increase the lives of poor and minority children, and are using this angle as nothing more than a ruse to create scare tactics and trample on the constitutional rights we all enjoy – the freedom of religion, and the freedom of speech,” the department added. 

Julie Anderson, the editor-in-chief of the Orlando Sentinel, told The Hill in a statement that the newspaper is standing by its story.

We stand by our reporting, which showed more than 150 private schools that receive state scholarships have anti-gay policies; more than 80 of those schools have expressly written policies stating they could expel or refuse to admit gay students,” she said.

“So yes, children are being affected and the state isn’t protecting them,” she added. 

Several companies that had previously donated to and benefited from the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, including Wells Fargo and Fifth Third Bank, have announced plans to pull out their contributions in response to the Sentinel investigation. 

State Rep. Travis Cummings (R) said that the program has lost $10 million, which is a “relatively small amount” compared to the amount of money goes into funding scholarships, according to the Tampa Bay Times 

The debate about what to do, if anything, about the scholarship program continues to spark intense debate across the state and among its lawmakers, the Times reported.