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China's Not the Only Foreign Power Seeking Influence Over American Students

AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File

The Chinese Communist Party is known for its efforts, namely through Confucius Institutes, to exert influence over American students studying within the U.S. while also engaging in intelligence gathering and espionage at the institutes in which they establish a foothold. It turns out Beijing's regime might not be the only one looking to take advantage of apparently lax restrictions on foreign activity at American schools. 


Testifying at a House Education and Workforce subcommittee hearing this week, Founder and President of Parents Defending Education (PDE) Nicole Neily said that public records requests filed by her organization turned up concerning cases of CCP intellectual property theft from American schools. 

In addition to ripping off lesson plans from American schools and bragging about the copied curriculum being used at schools back in China, the CCP may also be gaining access to sensitive student records and information at schools, as Neily explained:

In addition, Neily spoke to a Parents Defending Education report that identified 20 U.S. military bases within close proximity to educational institutions at which Confucius Institutes are active.

"We don't know what is happening and that to me in the most frightening part," Neily testified. "Who are these employees, what do they have access to, and what is going back and forth — both going into the minds of our children and then what data is flowing out of these schools?"

Answers to those questions, however, are not readily available nor are there efforts from schools with Confucius Institutes to be transparent.

"I have yet to hear a good argument why families shouldn't have access to know where the money is coming from and what their kids are learning," Neily noted.


Neily and her organization aren't alone in her concerns either. In her testimony this week, she noted a Parents Defending Education Poll that showed a whopping 87 percent of American voters believe schools ought to be required to disclose foreign funding, which PDE has found is not just coming from the Chinese Communist Party.

"We found, recently, several hundred thousand dollars in donations going from the Qatar Foundation to schools in Arizona," Neily said, in addition to a public records request turning up signs of interest from a Russian entity tied to Dmitry Medvedev.  

"One of the most frequent questions we receive at PDE is 'where are these problems coming from' — and while foreign funding of K-12 education was certainly not a source that we expected to uncover, it is one that we believe merits further investigation," Neily said in a statement. "We are gratified that the House Education Committee is examining this issue, and hope that states and the federal government take steps not only to determine the scope of this problem, but to ensure that families have the information they need to determine whether their children will participate in these programs or not," she added. 


Without oversight from House committees and the work of organizations like Parents Defending Education, it's unlikely the Biden administration is taking these threats seriously. 

As Townhall reported in the early days of the Biden administration, the White House "quietly nixed a Trump rule that aimed to track and root out potential Chinese Communist propaganda influence within our education system" by "ordering our schools to disclose ties to the Confucius Institute."

Even worse, Biden's Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said he did not have "any information around specific efforts" for the CCP to influence American education and added he did not "have information on the Confucius Institutes" as of April 2023. 

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