Pictured: Confucious Institute
Chinese Communist Party Influence in the Classroom
“Programs vetted and managed by the Government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) have infiltrated 34 states nationwide, impacting more than 170,000 students across 143 school districts,” wrote the Senators. “We urge you to conduct a thorough, nationwide audit to determine how much funding from hostile foreign governments has flowed to America's K-12 schools. We also urge you to analyze the extent to which other hostile foreign governments, in addition to the PRC, may have already gained access to our K-12 schools.”
Lankford and the other senators believe that programs using grants, sister school partnerships, and “Confucius Classrooms” could threaten national security. In 2020, the U.S. Department of State designated Confucius Institutes as a “foreign mission” of the Chinese government and Congress took steps to restrict the U.S. Department of Defense funding from universities that host such institutes.
Confucius Institutes were once run by the Hanban, a Chinese government agency, but has since been renamed the Center for Language Exchange and Cooperation (CLEC) under the Ministry of Education. The CLEC established a separate organization, the Chinese International Education Foundation (CIEF), which now funds and oversees the Confucius Institutes.
At one time many public schools across the United States had Confucius Institute programs. In Oklahoma, the University of Oklahoma (OU) established a Confucius Institute back in 2006. In addition to its university level work, the OU Confucius Institute provided “teaching materials, funding to support teaching staff, and tools for Chinese language and culture programs” to K-12 schools throughout Oklahoma, including schools in the Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Edmond, Norman, Putnam City, Enid, Jenks, Bixby, Union, Owasso, Muskogee, Fort Gibson, Crescent, Lawton and Comanche school districts.
Many of those programs were originally promoted as Chinese-language classes, but have been discontinued following publicity about the institutes’ ties to the Chinese government and the CCP. However, a report by Parents Defending Education (PDE) said some school districts now mask Chinese government funding through third-party nonprofit entities.
Tulsa Public Schools (TPS) has been identified as one of seven school districts nationwide that are still associated with Confucius Institute programming. The Chinese Language Program at Booker T. Washington High School has been cited as such a program. The July 11, 2022 agenda for the TPS board of education included an item for approval to allow the school district to enter “into an agreement with the Confucius Classroom Coordination Offices through the International Leadership of Texas, a 501(c)(3) organization, an international partnership dedicated to building the field of Chinese language teachers and learning in American schools for the 2022-2023 school year.”
The agenda stated that there would be no cost to the school district because the CIEF, “will provide funding for operating expenses.” It also noted: “This will be Booker T. Washington’s ninth year to participate in a Confucius Classroom program.”
On September 19, 2023, Ryan Walters, Oklahoma’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, testified before a U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce. He charged that the Confucius Institutes have sought to “undermine” the U.S., and called upon Congress to pass a law to ban schools from accepting money from hostile foreign governments. “The woke left has turned a blind eye to the harmful influence that the CCP exerts through programs like Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms. When we allow hostile foreign governments into our education system, we surrender academic freedom and American values,” said Walters.