RALEIGH — A report by a parent watchdog group on Chinese money flowing into the country’s K-12 schools has garnered a reaction from the Education and Workforce Committee chairwoman, North Carolina’s U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx.
The report, called “Little Red Classrooms” and issued by Parents Defending Education (PDE), details almost $18 million that the Chinese government sent to 34 states and the District of Columbia. The report also notes the “CCP has had ties to school districts near 20 U.S. military bases.”
Citing a National Association of Scholars (NAS) research on Confucius Institutes and K-12 Confucius Classrooms, PDE’s report notes “Confucius programming creates a partnership between K-12 schools, universities or nonprofits, and a Chinese government entity.”
“It remains our solemn responsibility to slap away the hands of malign foreign actors whenever they attempt to interfere in America’s classrooms,” Foxx said in a statement. “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.
“Today’s report from PDE has laid bare the extent to which China’s government has infiltrated schools across America — by means of both Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms. 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 went on to call the revelations “damning” and that the “Committee on Education and the Workforce will remain vigilant for all threats to America’s future leaders and will do everything possible to quash Chinese influence in our nation’s schools.”
In 2020, the U.S. State Department designated Confucius Institutes a “foreign mission” of the Chinese Communist Party and part of the Chinese Communist Party’s “overseas propaganda and influence operation.”
According to March 2023 estimates by NAS, a large number of Confucius Institutes on college campuses have been closed down, with 108 in the process of being closed and 13 still operating.
UNC Charlotte, the last college in North Carolina to operate a Confucius Institute, closed down operations as of Dec. 31, 2020. UNC Charlotte had been receiving an estimated $150,000 a year from Hanban — an arm of the Chinese Ministry of Education also known as the Confucius Institute Headquarters — a portion of which was earmarked to “support K-12 schools.”
While it would appear Confucius Institutes had been mostly eradicated, NAS reported in 2022 that the institutes were still operating at least 64 universities and had just been “rebranded.”
Although no colleges in North Carolina are currently operating a Confucius Institute, several K-12 school districts have Confucius Classrooms.
Districts and schools identified by PDE include Cabarrus County Schools, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Cumberland County Schools, Guilford County Schools, Mount Airy City Schools, Randolph County Schools, Union County Public Schools, Wake County Public Schools, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools and Envision Science Academy.
Additionally, the prestigious North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM) received an award from Hanban.
“The contract for NCSSM’s Confucius Classroom shows a five-year agreement between the school and the Chinese government, spanning from 2015-2020,” PDE’s report states. “The Confucius Classroom programs received a prestigious ‘Confucius Classroom of the Year’ award from Hanban in 2018.”
PDE’s report also says NCSSM signed an agreement with the North Carolina Center for International Understanding to establish a Confucius Classroom and “received grant funding from Hanban through the Center for International Understanding from 2015 to 2020.”
Among the notable CEOs and businesspeople on the board of directors for Go Global are Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s top education adviser, Geoff Coltrane, and former N.C. Supreme Court Associate Justice Bob Orr.
PDE’s report also notes Go Global has the funding pass-through for Confucius Classrooms in North Carolina and in other states.
In 2020, Go Global operated “34 Confucius Classrooms in 11 partner districts, including one charter school and NCSSM that is part of the UNC System.” Grants given out that year by Go Global to six schools ranged from “$10,000 to $45,000” for Confucius Classrooms according to its 2020 nonprofit fillings.
In addition to the list of districts and schools generated by PDE, North State Journal found seven Confucius Classrooms operating in the Buncombe County Public Schools district, A.C. Reynolds High School, Buncombe County Early College, Enka High School, Erwin High School, North Buncombe High School, Owen High School and T.C. Roberson High School.
North State Journal also found evidence of Confucius grants in the state’s largest district, the Wake County Public Schools System (WCPSS).
WCPSS’ budget-request documentation for 2019-20 included Confucius Classroom grants from Go Global to be used at four schools; Farmington Woods Magnet Elementary School, Smith Magnet Elementary School, East Garner Magnet Middle School and Garner Magnet High School.
According to that 2019-20 budget document, “In years past, each school received $10,000 annually. In 2017-18 and this year, the four aforementioned schools received $5,000 each.”
PDE’s report notes that WCPSS’ proposed budget document for 2021-22 “shows that the district was still running Confucius Classrooms, relying on carry-over funds.”
At the time of our 2020 article, North State Journal had reached out multiple times to Go Global and received no response. Similarly, no response was received from WCPSS after multiple attempts.