The South Carolina senator is in favor of local control of education — except when he's not.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Monday blasted the decision of a local school board in Virginia to change the names of two of its schools that are currently named for slaveholders. Graham has in the past insisted that states and localities should make their own decisions regarding education.
"To those who wondered if it was a slippery slope when it comes to renaming public buildings for the imperfect people who helped shape America: you need to look no further than Falls Church, Virginia," Graham tweeted. "They have concluded that Thomas Jefferson, the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, our nation's first Secretary of State, and the third President of the United States, is no longer worthy of having an elementary school named after him."
"This effort by modern day liberals to purge America of its founding history is truly shameful," Graham scolded.
Falls Church is a small city with an estimated population of 14,617, located in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. Its elected school board voted unanimously last week to rename Thomas Jefferson Elementary School and George Mason High School.
After public hearings, a survey, and an extensive study, the board members decided that they did not want their city's schools to be named after people who owned slaves, as both Jefferson and Mason did. "Our schools must be places where all students, staff, and community members feel safe, supported, and inspired," said chair Greg Anderson in a news release announcing the decision.
Graham has previously presented himself as a fierce defender of local control of education policies.
"Our resolution affirms that education belongs in the hands of our parents, local officials and states," Graham said in 2014 in support of a move by Republican senators to denounce federal implementation of the Common Core state educational standards.
In a statement backing the nomination of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education in 2017, Graham wrote, "We must return control to our parents, local school districts, and states to make the best decisions for our students."
A Graham spokesperson did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.
This is not the first time Graham has made comments opposed to efforts to address the nation's racist history.
As recently as June 2015, he opposed removing the Confederate flag from South Carolina's state Capitol grounds. Though he grudgingly changed his mind in the wake of a mass shooting at a historically Black church in Charleston, he insisted that the image was "a part of who we are."
In 2017, he defended keeping Confederate monuments in his state, saying, "The Civil War did exist. We need to learn from our past and make sure we don't repeat the mistakes of our past, and move forward as a nation and as a state. So I will support my state legislature's ability to make these decisions, not Washington's."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.