China’s Influence in U.S. Schools Sparks National Security Concerns
The alarm bells are ringing as concerns grow about China’s insidious influence seeping into the American education system. The House Committee on Education and the Workforce recently held a hearing where stakeholders sounded the alarm over China’s efforts to use “soft power” to manipulate U.S. institutions, both public and private, potentially posing a grave national security threat.
Oklahoma’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, Ryan Walters, who formerly served at the state’s Secretary of Education, made a compelling case against the Confucius Classrooms program. This program is run by Confucius Institutes, Chinese government-sponsored entities. He accused the program of seeking to “undermine” the United States and urged Congress to pass a law banning schools from accepting funds from hostile foreign governments. Walters also alleged that Tulsa Public Schools had received Chinese government funding and maintained an “active connection with the CCP” (Chinese Communist Party). However, the school district denied accepting any funds from China or running Confucius Classroom programs.
Nicole Neily, President of Parents Defending Education, added to the concerns by revealing that their research had found over $17 million had been funneled to 143 school districts across 34 states and the District of Columbia through the Confucius Classrooms initiative in the past decade. Some of these schools were located near U.S. military bases, raising national security concerns.
These revelations come at a time when the relationship between the United States and China is cooling, with growing tensions fueled by concerns like the appearance of a spy balloon over American soil and an ongoing trade war. National security fears are exacerbated by the purchase of land near key military bases by Chinese companies and allegations of Chinese “military personnel” infiltrating the U.S. through the southern border with Mexico.
While many Confucius Institutes in the U.S. have closed in recent years, Confucius Classrooms continue to operate, teaching the Chinese language and other subjects of interest to the Chinese government. A 2022 report by the National Association of Scholars revealed that Confucius Classrooms often survive the closure of their sponsoring Confucius Institutes.
In July, Parents Defending Education conducted an investigation that claimed Chinese government money was funneled into non-profits, including Confucius Institutes, which then distributed funds to K-12 schools. One striking example cited was Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Virginia, which allegedly received over $1 million in financial aid from Chinese government-affiliated entities over a decade.
While Republicans largely agreed with the testimony, some Democrats questioned whether Chinese institutions were being unfairly singled out, mentioning other influencers in the education system. However, the concerns raised about China’s influence in American schools cannot be dismissed lightly. It remains essential to scrutinize foreign funding and influence to safeguard American education and national security.