The Chinese Communist government has infiltrated more than 500 kindergarten through 12th grade classrooms across America, with CCP-run programs strategically concentrated around U.S. military bases, a panel of experts testified before Congress on Tuesday.
Throughout the last decade, China has spent more than $17 million establishing what are known as Confucius Classrooms in around 143 school districts across 34 states and Washington, D.C., according to Nicole Neily, president of Parents Defending Education, a watchdog group that obtained records outlining this funding. A significant portion of these Communist Party programs operate near U.S. military bases, giving CCP-affiliated teachers access to student data.
The amount of money China has spent establishing propaganda hubs in American public and private schools is likely far higher, according to Neily, who pointed to State Department and Senate investigations that found "hundreds more" CCP programs being run in U.S. classrooms.
In these Confucius Classrooms—which China bills as cultural exchange programs—teachers hand-picked by the Communist government "are given access to district servers and student information," Neily testified before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. And with many of these programs located near U.S. military bases, there are mounting concerns that China is gaining access to information about American service members’ children.
"These ties raise serious concerns about the safety and security of military children and secrets," Rep. Aaron Bean (R., Fla.), the committee’s chairman, said in his opening remarks. "The CCP's presence near our bases can be seen as a direct attempt to target and influence these vulnerable populations, potentially compromising our national security in the process."
China runs these programs in a manner that prevents school administrators and parents from understanding what their children are being taught, Neily said during her testimony.
"Parents and administrators do not know what curriculum is being used in the classroom and must defer to teachers who are hand selected and vetted by the PRC," she said. "As parents we deserve to know whether hostile nations are pumping propaganda into our children’s heads."
Confucius Classrooms are a public-school version of Confucius Institutes, Chinese-backed educational programs that primarily operate on college campuses. While Congress and the federal government have cracked down on Confucius Institutes—by slashing federal funding to schools that host them—Confucius Classrooms operate with impunity and little oversight.
Neily and other experts who testified before the committee urged Congress to step up its oversight of these programs and ban public schools from entering into contracts with all CCP-controlled entities and nonprofits.
"Confucius Classrooms are strategically located around U.S. military bases," Bean said, citing a recent report on the matter.
In one case, the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, an elite charter school in Fairfax, Va., partnered with "Chinese military schools ‘supervised’ by the Chinese defense industry, like Tsinghua University, to develop academic programming," according to Bean.
These types of partnerships are much more common than most American parents know, according to Bean and the expert witnesses who testified.
"Through programs such as Confucius Classrooms we are allowing a hostile, foreign, anti-democratic government a foothold into our schools," said Ryan Walters, a superintendent of public instruction with the Oklahoma State Department of Education.
Walters, in his testimony, outlined how the Tulsa public school district has entered into lucrative contracts with CCP-controlled nonprofit groups.
The Republican-controlled House committee promised the experts Congress would step up its investigations into Confucius Classroom programs.
"This blatant attempt to inject foreign ideologies into our schools undermines the fundamental purpose of American education," Bean said. "It goes without saying, we should be teaching American values in American schools."