EXCLUSIVE: China's Push for CCP-Aligned Teachers in Texas Schools

Documents show history between a Texas charter school system and the Chinese government.

U.S. officials sounded the alarm in recent months about strategies the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is implementing to gain global influence, which China considers “soft power.”

A well-known example is China’s creation of Confucius Institutes — educational centers teaching Chinese language and culture on college campuses. The CCP filled them with Chinese teachers and bragged that the project was an “important part of China’s overseas propaganda set-up.” To align with CCP narratives, the institutes suppressed discussion of controversial topics such as Taiwanese independence.

Most Confucius Institutes at more than 100 U.S. colleges disappeared after former President Donald Trump defunded them. But Confucius Institutes Headquarters — a Chinese agency known as Hanban — was also operating programs in K-12 schools which have continued without obstruction.

One Texas school district comprising more than 20 charter schools offers a detailed look at Hanban’s relationship with K-12 institutions. The Chinese agency helped the district recruit teachers for its Chinese language program, and Upward News learned that applicants were recommended who had degrees from state-run Chinese universities or explicit connections to the CCP.

Trump and lawmakers thought they scored a win by killing Confucius Institutes in higher education. Public records now reveal that people who taught in Confucius programs worldwide migrated into Texas’s K-12 system.

The school district in question, International Leadership of Texas, no longer partners with Hanban directly. But the CCP's indirect influence continues, and watchdog groups say it doesn’t mix well with ILTexas’s ambitions for its students.

”Hanban teachers” in American classrooms

ILTexas believes its foreign language curriculum “prepares students for exceptional leadership roles in the international community.” The publicly funded district regularly takes students on trips to Washington, D.C. and to China and maintains close ties to China’s Ministry of Education and the U.S. State Department.

“The Mandarin Chinese language is classified as [a] National Security Language,” said ILTexas spokesperson Caitlin Madison in an email. “With China being our largest trade partner and greatest competitor, it is more important than ever that we have individuals in the United States who not only speak the language but who understand the culture.”

There is no better way for our students to learn the culture than by being taught by those who know it best,” Madison said. However, the teachers’ backgrounds have raised suspicion that students are learning topics through the lens of China’s propaganda efforts.

Through a public records request, Upward News obtained documents on Chinese nationals who applied for teaching positions in the first six months of 2023. Their emails and resumes shed light on a small sampling of staff at ILTexas campuses.

Resume of an ILTexas teacher

Two people who taught for Confucius programs in Thailand later worked at ILTexas. Another teacher at the Garland campus previously won a “Best Teacher of the Year” award from Hanban for her work at a North Carolina elementary school.

A teacher at ILTexas Ramirez first transferred from Asia to a North Carolina school under the CCP's Chinese Guest Teachers initiative. This program involves Hanban selecting and vetting Chinese nationals with help from the College Board and sending them to American schools with stipends from China.

Some ILTexas teachers were hired because the Chinese government recommended them. An administrator handbook from the 2022-2023 school year described Hanban and the College Board as “very instrumental in assisting ILTexas with filling” foreign teacher positions. CCP-endorsed staff became so commonplace that they were listed as “Hanban teachers” in everyday documents.

An email chain from June references ILTexas employees passing around ten resumes “received from CLEC” to conduct a screening of the applicants. ILTexas confirmed to Upward News that CLEC refers to Center for Language Education and Cooperation — another name for Hanban.

Email dated June 9, 2023

Three of the ten applicants were hired. One hiree, Guanyu Wu, was a Hanban guest teacher at the University of California, Los Angeles. He previously helped create a documentary about “the integration of China and the world” for China Central Television, the CCP’s propaganda outlet.

Other resumes in this email chain showed more explicit political ties. Ming Chen described her academic or volunteer work for the CCP’s Communist Youth League, while Min Li flaunted her “Excellent Communist” award from the local government of Jiamusi, China. These two were not hired, but the CCP’s referral signals its preference for ideologically loyal citizens in American classrooms.

Resume of a Chinese teacher applicant

China, in fact, centers its education system around the advancement of communism. All K-12 educators must “have sound ideological and moral character,” “continuously raise their ideological level and political consciousness,” and commit to “training builders and successors for the socialist cause” under the Teachers Law of the People’s Republic of China.

Chinese teachers obtain their licenses through an examination process that requires pledging loyalty to the CCP. “The expressions of their opinions and suggestions must always be parallel to the law of China and the view of the Chinese political party that they align themselves to,” as explained by a state-run university. “Expressing, supporting, or teaching the opposing views could … result in termination.”

To teach at ILTexas, Chinese citizens need J-1 immigration visas allowing them to work temporarily in the U.S. And to obtain visas, they must be qualified to teach in their home country. Thus, all Chinese teachers hired at ILTexas pass through the CCP’s ideological conditioning. Moreover, their relocation overseas doesn’t exempt them from consequences such as losing their licenses if the CCP decides they have broken with party doctrine.

Teaching license of an ILTexas teacher

Reeducating the world

ILTexas ended its partnership with Hanban in August 2023, Madison told Upward News. She emphasized, “Chinese curriculum is 100% developed and reviewed by ILTexas, and it strictly focuses on language and culture.”

“All J-1 teachers are vetted and cleared by Homeland Security,” Madison said. “In no way does the Chinese Government have any influence in what is taught in our classrooms.”

Madison said the district fosters “people-to-people connection to help repair our relationship with China.” She asserted that “ILTexas is helping to fill a diplomatic gap, and therefore, is making the United States stronger.”

Education experts argue it’s not that simple.

“There’s no doubt that China’s not a benign power anymore,” said Ian Oxnevad in an interview. Oxnevad, a senior fellow at the National Association of Scholars, said, “We’ve seen testimony after testimony from [FBI Director] Christopher Wray and other officials on both sides of the aisle related to this, but there’s an unwillingness to decouple from China in that regard.”

Mandarin Chinese, which is mandated throughout China, is part of the problem, according to Oxnevad. ILTexas shouldn’t train future diplomats to “speak Chinese on the CCP’s terms,” he said.

“Chinese as taught by the People’s Republic is different from Chinese overall,” Oxnevad said. “In Taiwan, for example, they still use ‘traditional script’ as opposed to ‘simplified script’ that was engineered and … promoted by the Chinese Communist Party.”

“If you look at the way Mandarin developed under the Chinese Communist Party, it was weaponized for propaganda purposes and now they’re exporting that,” the scholar told Upward News.

Others have described China’s enforcement of Mandarin as a subtle way to control public discourse and erase problematic ideas. Notably, the CCP hopes to eventually see every nation and culture “fused together” under Chinese communism, according to its writings.

“Its own version of Mandarin was used against political prisoners to … reeducate them — under coercion, obviously,” Oxnevad said.

A report by Parents Defending Education disclosed that the CCP has poured $17.9 million into K-12 schools in America and collaborated with at least 143 districts. The report’s author, Rhyen Staley, told Upward News that academic partnerships are “a PR campaign” for the totalitarian regime.

Staley said, “Having been on the inside as a teacher a couple of years ago, I will tell you that I had a lot of teachers that [thought] China’s education is the best. Very pro-China all the way through.“

“I think that’s just the general gist of this is to really make people think that China is not this bad actor while they’re flying balloons over the United States collecting data, while they’re sabotaging our kids’ minds with TikTok … and sending fentanyl across the border,” he added.

Wherever the CCP is involved in the education system, “parents should be asking questions to their school district,” Staley said.