Thomas Jefferson High School, a renowned STEM school in Fairfax County, Virginia, has been flagged by a watchdog group, Parents Defending Education (PDE), for receiving over $1 million in donations from entities affiliated with the Chinese military. According to PDE, TJPF, a non-profit that raises funds for the school’s science and technology department, received $250,000 in 2015 and 2016 from the Ameson Education and Cultural Exchange Foundation. The high school also received between $100,000 and $500,000 in 2018 from Chinese-linked groups.
PDE has also uncovered ties between the school and Shirble HK, Tsinghua University in Beijing and the Ameson Foundation. The three organizations have each donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Thomas Jefferson, with Ameson donating over $250,000 and Shirble HK donating over $500,000 to the school over the last decade.
Fairfax County Public Schools' top STEM academy Fund received over a million dollars in funding from Chinese organizations, documents show. – Parents Defending Education https://t.co/em7ZOYa7Jf
— Mailyn Salabarria (@cbntaRMNP) March 7, 2023
PDE claimed that Tsinghua University High School, which Thomas Jefferson High School partnered with from 2013 to 2014, has links to the Chinese military. The report from PDE referenced a Thomas Jefferson newsletter stating that the schools “developed a partnership” to share best practices. Tsinghua University High School was established in Beijing in 2015, based on the Thomas Jefferson High School model. The high school is across from Tsinghua University, a STEM-focused Chinese university designated as a “Strong Base Plan” school.
PDE also obtained TJPF’s campaign donor list, revealing three Chinese-linked groups that donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the campaign, including the Ameson Education and Cultural Exchange Foundation, Shirble HK, and Tsinghua University. According to PDE, Ameson’s founder and executive vice chairman, Sean Zhang, had ties to China’s United Front Work Department (UFWD), which was created to “co-opt and neutralize” opposition to the Chinese Communist Party.
Nicole Neily, the president and founder of PDE, compared Thomas Jefferson’s relationship with Tsinghua University High School to American universities being infiltrated by “Confucius Institutes,” which Fox News Digital recently described as Chinese government-funded “educational partnership programs for students outside of China, including in the United States, to learn Chinese languages and culture.” In recent years, Confucius Institutes have been criticized for suspected propaganda agendas.
Neily has called for greater accountability in the American education system, particularly in K-12 settings, and urged the implementation of controls to prevent similar problems from occurring in other schools across the country. She has also noted the Trump administration’s success in reining in Confucius Institutes in American universities, thanks to the Higher Education Act, which required reporting of foreign funding and contracts valued at $250,000 or more per year.
This scandal at Thomas Jefferson High School highlights the urgent need for greater transparency and accountability in the American education system to prevent foreign interests, particularly those with ties to foreign militaries, from influencing American schools. The implications of such infiltration can pose an acute threat to America’s national security. Schools nationwide must take the necessary steps to protect themselves against foreign influence and maintain their autonomy.