OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – State Superintendent Ryan Walters has claimed Tulsa Public Schools has been accepting Chinese Communist Party money, but both the district and the charter school in Texas it partnered up with to teach Chinese say that’s not true.
“We found an issue with Tulsa Public Schools entering into a contract with the Chinese Communist Party,” stated State Superintendent Ryan Walters during a Board of Education meeting on Thursday.
The contract he is referring to was signed by the Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education President, Stacey Wooley and International Leadership Texas Global Founder, Edward Conger in 2022.
The contract was effective for less than a year and only included Booker T. Washington High School.
The contract states its purpose is to enhance the “understanding and friendship between the young people of China and the United States.”
The agreement would have allowed Booker T. Washington High School to:
- Teach Chinese language and culture
- Conduct Chinese language proficiency tests such as HSK (Chinese Proficiency Test) and YCT (Youth Chinese Test)
- Train local Chinese language teachers
- Organize exchange programs among the schools in the United States and China
- Conduct activities related to the Chinese language and culture
The Confucius Classroom Coordination Office at IL Texas Global would have assisted Booker T. Washington High School in the management of the Confucius Classroom as well as assist in developing annual work plans, budget proposals, and accounting reports for the Confucius Classroom.
Per the contract, Booker T. Washington High School’s Principal or Vice Principal would have directly taken charge of the program.
The Chinese International Education Foundation would have funded Booker T. Washington High School’s Confucius Classroom program.
News 4 was not able to identify who funds the Chinese International Education Foundation from an official source.
Students at Booker T. Washington have the benefit of learning world languages from exceptional educators, including those who choose to take Chinese language classes. Some of those students from the recently named National Blue Ribbon School earned awards in the prestigious state and national Chinese Speech Contests. These students work with a dedicated, highly respected educator who engages in supplemental professional development in Chinese language instruction, including past engagement with one of the organization’s mentioned in remarks by Oklahoma’s State Superintendent. This teacher’s salary and adopted instructional resources are fully paid for by Tulsa Public Schools. Contrary to accusations, the district takes no funds from the Chinese government and has no Confucius Classroom programs in its schools.Tulsa Public Schools
The district says it does not currently operate a Confucius Classroom. While that is true, the district’s membership with IL Texas Global was terminated on August 25.
“Booker T. Washington High School will no longer be a member of the Confucius Classroom Coordination Office (CCCO) International Leadership (IL) Texas Global. We sincerely thank you and your team for opening your program to us during the 2022-2023 school year as the collegial support, access to professional development, and positive camaraderie was greatly appreciated,” said Booker T. Washington High School Principal Melissa Woolridge.
IL Texas Global has also put a pause on the Confucius Classroom program.
In a letter from Conger, he said, “The current environment endangers both students and education professionals. This is despite the fact that the goal is simply to teach language and culture. We pray for a future when we can share noodles, dumplings, and Texas BBQ as our kids are equipped to resolve difficult challenges with respect and mutual understanding.”
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Conger drove from Texas to Oklahoma to appear before the State Board of Education and clear the air on the program Thursday morning.
“The reason I took the day off to come up here was just to share personal test, where I got my values, and the values that I believe in. On a personal note, also, to let him know you all are welcome to drive the three and a half hours down. We’d love to show you what we’re doing in Texas and would love to show why it’s important for our kids to learn the Chinese language,” said Conger.
He added he has not personally spoke with Supt. Walters in the last month, but he has been watching news reports of Supt. Walters discussing IL Texas Global.
“If Americans, especially those who pursue public service and those that want to do international relations, we Americans are going to be in a much stronger position to be able to have that conversation,” stated Conger. “I don’t want to be in the middle of the State Superintendent and the local public schools. That’s an Oklahoma decision. It’s not a Texas decision. But what I do want to say, just make sure that’s absolutely clear, we never transferred any money to Tulsa.”
News 4 pointed out the contract between the two parties having been signed in 2022. We asked why there was no transfer of money in that time.
“It’s usually funded at the end. It’s almost in arrears. The federal government is on an October to September [yearly funding schedule]. Texas is a July or June 30th to July [of the next year]. There wouldn’t have been any funds transferred until after the end of the school year,” said Conger.
He said the Tulsa district and himself were set to meet recently, but it didn’t work out because of the political climate surrounding the program.
While Conger and IL Texas Global have put a pause on the Confucius Classroom program, Conger said he’s still working with state and federal governments to implement the program.
“The thought is if you’re not doing anything wrong, just continue to move forward. Stay with the truth,” said Conger.
Conger told KFOR he and his team plan to reach out to the Oklahoma State Department of Education soon to further discuss the program and surrounding allegations.