(The Center Square) – U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx has vowed to “do everything possible to quash Chinese influence in our nation’s schools.”
Foxx, the North Carolina Republican chairwoman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, said, “No matter where they may live in our nation, parents deserve reassurance that their children will not be subjected to the propaganda of our nation’s adversaries. Malign doctrine has no place in America’s schools.”
A nonprofit with ties to a Gov. Roy Cooper advisor and former state Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr, who participated in recent redistricting map drawing, has been used as a route for funding.
U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., introduced the DHS Restrictions on Confucius Institutes and Chinese Entities of Concern Act in April to block federal funding for colleges and universities that partner with the Chinese Communist Party or affiliated entities.
The pushback stems from reports about Chinese money flowing into schools across the country through Confucius Institutes and K-12 Confucius Classrooms, the most recent from watchdogs at Parents Defending Education titled Little Red Classrooms.
The report documents a total 143 U.S. school districts in 34 states and the District of Columbia with active and inactive Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms that have received $17,967,565 in funding from China since 2009.
The Confucius programs create a partnership between K-12 schools, universities or nonprofits, and the Chinese International Education Foundation supervised by the Chinese Ministry of Education to create Chinese culture and language immersion programs.
The single or multiyear contracts offer money, Chinese language instructors and leadership and support for Chinese language programs that critics contend can be leveraged by the Chinese Communist Party to promote its global influence and Chinese propaganda, and monitor U.S. operations. The U.S. State Department in 2020 designated Confucius Institutes a “foreign mission” of the Chinese Communist Party.
The scrutiny has convinced most schools to shutter Confucius programs throughout the country in recent years, though 10 Confucius Institutes remained in operation through June. A total of 111 have closed or are in the process, though as many as 58 maintain close relationships with their former Confucius Institute partner, according to the National Association of Scholars.
Little Red Classrooms details schools in 11 North Carolina districts that received funds for Confucius programs through Go Global NC, a nonprofit also known as the North Carolina Center for International Understanding, that has ties to Geoff Coltrane, Cooper’s education advisor, and Orr.
Tax filings from 2020 show Go Global backed 34 Confucius Classrooms in 11 school districts, including the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, with grants of between $10,000 and $45,000.
Other North Carolina schools identified include Cabarrus County Schools, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Cumberland County Schools, Envision Science Academy, Guilford County Schools, Mount Airy City Schools, Randolph County Schools, Union County Public Schools, Wake County Public Schools and Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.
Some of those schools are among 20 tagged by Parents Defending Education for their close proximity to U.S. military bases.
“PDE’s thorough investigation has exposed a litany of security risks directly related to student safety, the vulnerability of curriculums, and the threats to intellectual property,” Foxx said. “Committee on Education and the Workforce will remain vigilant for all threats to America’s future leaders and will do everything possible to squash Chinese influence in our nation’s schools.”
While the last Confucius Institute closed at UNC Charlotte in 2020, and most Confucius Classrooms in North Carolina shuttered programs before that, some K-12 schools continue to participate.
Little Red Classrooms points to a proposed budget document for Wake County schools for 2021-22 that “shows that the district was still running Confucius Classrooms, relying on carry-over funds.”
Tillis is working with Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott to shut down the remaining Confucius Institutes with the DHS Restrictions on Confucius Institutes and Chinese Entities of Concern Act reintroduced in April. Senate Bill 1121, currently in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, aims to restrict Department of Homeland Security funding to colleges and universities that maintain relationships with “a Communist Chinese entity of concern or Confucius Institute.”
“Any institution in the United States connected to the Chinese Communist Party should be stripped of federal funding,” Tillis said. “They are echo chambers for an adversarial regime and threaten free speech in American colleges and universities.”