Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., became the eighth candidate officially vying for the GOP presidential nomination Monday, though the pack is expected to roughly double in size over the summer.
Graham has spent nearly his entire political career as a member of Congress, first elected to the U.S. House of Representative in 1995, and later to the U.S. Senate in 2002. And during that time, he’s consistently been pushing for a scaled-back federal role in education, most recently with a legislative proposal that takes aim at the Obama administration’s involvement with the Common Core State Standards.
Those sentiments date back to 1995, when then-Rep. Graham was on the education committee that tried to dismantle the U.S. Department of Education, or at least merge it with the U.S. Department of Labor.
“Rightly or wrongly,” he said at the time, many parents, particularly religious conservatives, “feel threatened” by the department.
Also during his time in the House, Graham was a key player among a group of GOP members of Congress that helped delay a proposed national testing plan being pushed by the Clinton administration. At the time, Republicans and Democrat were in a hotly-contested debate over whether the federal government should pay for and endorse the creation of new tests to be given to 4th graders in reading and 8th graders in mathematics.
In addition, Graham was involved in the House and Senate negotiations on a final version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 2001, which is better known as No Child Left Behind. He co-authored an amendment that would impose new parental-consent requirements on school districts that receive federal aid. Among other things, the proposal required that parents be allowed to review their children’s school curricula and textbooks.
Graham was a big proponent of President George W. Bush’s plans to expand a college-loan-forgiveness program for teachers and set up a federal tax-deduction plan to repay those who have spent their own money on school supplies. He introduced a bill on the president’s behalf that would provide up to $17,500 in student-loan forgiveness to mathematics, science, and special education teachers who serve in needy schools for five years.
When Graham successfully ran for a Senate seat in 2002, much of his campaign ads touted his role helping broker the NCLB law and his partnership with Bush on the college loan front.
While he spent a couple of years on the Senate education committee, since moving across the Capitol, Graham has shifted his focus more toward judiciary, foreign affairs, armed services, and defense matters—though that didn’t stop him from being one of the first GOP members of Congress to take aim at the Common Core State Standards.
As for immigration, which will likely play a big role in upcoming debates, Graham argued back in 2010 when the Senate took up the DREAM Act that lawmakers need to “secure our borders before we do anything else.” He added that any legalization plan for undocumented immigrants should be part of big-picture immigration reform, not considered as a stand-alone bill.