Walters: China influence on schools ‘pressing and deeply concerning’


Oklahoma Supt. of Public Instruction Ryan Walters testified before a Congressional committee on Tuesday about the alleged influence of Chinese propaganda in U.S. schools, urging lawmakers to ban schools from accepting money or sharing data with “hostile foreign governments.”

The hearing hosted by the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce covered the topic of foreign influence in K-12 schools, which Walters says is a “pressing and deeply concerning issue” that has ramifications beyond primary education.

Walters summarized the controversy that erupted with the Tulsa Public Schools being named in a report last month that sought to bring awareness to the issue of foreign interference, especially from China, in K-12 schools. Parents Defending Education authored the report.

Walters says his office’s investigation of the issue “discovered a disturbing connection between the CCP” and TPS. Walters says TPS, through a series of CCP-affiliated non-profits, has maintained an “active connection” with the CCP through a program called Confucius Classroom, even after the federal government cracked down on similar programs in 2020.

Confucius Classrooms is a global Chinese language and cultural program aimed at school-age students.

“The role that the CCP plays in some of our K-12 schools is an issue that goes far beyond the realm of education and has national security implications. Through programs such as Confucius Classrooms, we are allowing a hostile, foreign, anti-democratic government a foothold into our schools,” Walters says.

“While we might not be taking up conventional arms against China and other hostile foreign governments, there is still a deep underlying conflict using the weapons of information, misinformation, and propaganda,” Walters testified.

“It is hard enough to root out Chinese misinformation and propaganda without providing them with influence inside of our schools.”

TPS has denied the district was exchanging any money with the Chinese government.

In addition to federal measures, Walters believes that at the state level, state education agencies should require districts to report foreign and non-profit money they accept.

Walters said such a measure was passed at the last State Board of Education meeting, believing it will “allow us to conduct a more thorough investigation into foreign influence in our schools and provide more transparency to the Oklahoman taxpayer.

“The American public, as well as Oklahomans, are encouraged that this committee is finally recognizing the extreme danger that this threat provides,” Walters said.

U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Arizona) asked Walters if he felt it was a conflict of interest for companies involved in oil and gas fracking to dictate education on the environment to students in Oklahoma.

Grijalva also alleged the energy industry has heavily contributed to PragerU, an unaccredited conservative nonprofit educational program the state is partnering which, according to its website, offers “a free alternative to the dominant left-wing ideology in culture, media, and education.”

“These are American companies that are of benefit to the American economy,” Walters said of oil and gas companies, “so I don’t see any issue with them having any influence on our education system.”

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