Rubio introduces bill to crack down on ‘malign foreign influence’ in American schools

FIRST ON FOX: Sen. Marco Rubio introduced a bill Thursday to safeguard U.S. schools from foreign adversaries’ influence. 

The legislation, first obtained by Fox News Digital, prohibits higher education institutions, their faculty and staff from establishing or maintaining relationships with specified individuals, or undercover foreign adversaries, referred to as “covered persons.” 

Additionally, universities would be required to develop and enforce policies that necessitate faculty and staff disclosure of such relationships, along with guidelines to prevent these connections or identify existing ones. Institutions owned or controlled by these covered persons would eventually lose eligibility for federal funding.

“The integrity of our schools is one of the most basic guarantees that we should give to our students. Current federal policies to protect our students from adversaries are incomplete and disappointing. The U.S. is being infiltrated through its educational institutions,” Rubio said in a statement. 

“This bill aims to close those gaps, securing a robust defense against malign foreign influence in our classrooms,” he added.

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Sen. Marco Rubio speaks to supporters during an election-night party on Nov. 8, 2022, in Miami, Florida.  (Saul Martinez/Getty Images)

The bill comes as the bipartisan, bicameral U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission sent its annual report to Congress last month. One of its 30 recommendations requested that the House and Senate “address China’s state-sponsored influence and interference” within U.S. education. 

Rubio’s bill doesn’t stop at higher education; it also targets K-12 schools. States receiving administrative funds for schools must create rules stopping school staff from having relationships with identified foreign adversaries. The secretary of education also has to report these relationships to Congress each year, and private schools run by covered persons won’t be eligible for federal funds.

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The U.S. and China flags

In July, Parents Defending Education said it uncovered disturbing evidence linking Chinese Communist Party-sponsored financial entities to American K-12 schools. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

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For educational institutions receiving gifts or contracts from foreign sources, the bill would reduce the minimum value for reporting such gifts or contracts from $250,000 to $50,000 and expand reporting obligations to include faculty and staff, not just the institution.

Exemptions from foreign agent registration only stand if the activities don’t further a foreign government’s political agenda and compliance with these rules becomes a prerequisite for federal funding. 

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., is cosponsoring the legislation. 

In September, a congressional 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.

In July, Parents Defending Education (PDE), a grassroots organization dedicated to fighting indoctrination in the classroom, said it uncovered disturbing evidence linking Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-sponsored financial entities to American K-12 schools.

The findings were detailed in a report dubbed “Little Red Classrooms,” which was sent to 34 governors, key lawmakers and committee chairs.

Fox News’ Brian Flood and Gabriel Hays contributed to this report. 

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