EXCLUSIVE - Rep. Aaron Bean, R-Fla., said a recent hearing on alleged Chinese Communist Party (CCP) funding in K-12 institutions should serve as a "wake-up call" for Americans.
Tuesday's hearing, entitled, "Academic Freedom Under Attack: Loosening the CCP's Grip on America's Classrooms," explored alleged CCP influence in American schools through Confucius Classrooms, whose stated purpose is to promote Chinese language and culture. They have been described by the National Association of Scholars as "a smaller version" of the Confucius Institutes.
Republicans on the committee and some witnesses claimed Confucius Classrooms are more interested in promoting communism and whitewashing contentious issues like Taiwan and Tiananmen Square. Committee members also suggested Confucius Classrooms were a national security threat because a few are reportedly located near U.S. military bases.
"This blatant attempt to inject foreign ideologies into our schools undermines the fundamental purpose of American education," subcommittee chair for Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Bean said in his opening remarks. "It goes without saying, we should be teaching American values in American schools."
Nicole Neily, the president of Parents Defending Education (PDE), a grassroots organization dedicated to fighting indoctrination in the classroom, testified they have uncovered evidence linking CCP-sponsored financial entities to American K-12 schools. A recent PDE investigation found that several districts around the country have been taking money from the People's Republic of China over the past several years. PDE's FOIA findings, which are not yet complete, can be seen here.
"America needed a wake-up call," Bean told FOX News Digital Tuesday. "We talked about the wake-up call coming in the form of a Chinese spy balloon. But on an education level, we heard from a panelist today talk about the infiltration of the Communist Chinese Party into the American classroom under the guise of what’s called these Confucius Institutes, where they try to bring their culture and their language into the classroom. Sometimes giving money to the school districts."
Bean called Confucius Classrooms "a front for Chinese propaganda."
"In postsecondary education, the CCP exerts soft power on the American education system through cultural exchange outposts known as Confucius Institutes," the House Education and Workforce Committee added in a press release. "The K-12 arms of this propaganda machine, called Confucius Classrooms, were under the microscope today for their potential malignant influence."
Bean pushed back on the narrative that hearings of this nature only fuel "anti-Asian hate."
"Two words: not true," Bean told FOX Digital. "Not true at all."
"The recurring theme of this hearing is, there are no sentiments against Asian Americans," he continued. "It's always the Chinese government. It's the government who's oppressing 1.4 billion people. That is the root cause of this problem. So that's where the committee focused its efforts to make sure that this is the Communist Chinese Party is who's to blame, who's leading this problem, and who we need to address the concerns to."
Rep. Michelle Steel, R-Calif., similarly said opposing Confucius Classrooms has "nothing to do with racism."
One witness, Gisela Perez Kusakawa, who serves as the executive director for the Asian American Scholar Forum, said she regretted that Asian Americans appeared to have become "collateral damage" and treated as "convenient scapegoats" and "perpetual foreigners." She asked the committee to engage in "genuine dialogue" and to "consider how we speak about China can lead to ramifications for Asian Americans."
"Therefore it becomes essential that we do not allow U.S. tensions with a foreign, Asian country to translate into an overreaction by the federal government or within our education system that leads to negative impacts for the Asian American community," she said in her opening testimony.
Kusakawa added that it was important for students to have exposure to different cultures and to become bilingual.
"We are not accusing folks of being racist," she later said. "But merely asking for caution and really exercising critical and careful approach. Understanding the unique experiences that Asian Americans have, especially currently as U.S.-China tensions have peaked."
Ryan Walters, Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction, testified on Tuesday that schools in his state are now required to report any donations or influence coming from the Chinese Communist Party. Bean said it's something they'll consider mirroring nationwide.
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FOX News' Brian Flood contributed to this report.