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Alain Savary; Ex-French Education Minister

February 18, 1988|From Times Wire Services

PARIS — Alain Savary, the education minister whose efforts to review hiring and salaries in France's government-supported Catholic schools sent millions to the streets in protest and threatened to bring down the government, has died, the Socialist Party announced in a statement Wednesday. He was 69.

According to the statement, Savary had been hospitalized for several weeks with a serious infection. It did not say when he died or identify the cause of death.

A member of the French Resistance during World War II, Savary had a reputation for being soft-spoken but stubborn.

He was one of the leaders of the post-Liberation French government, a member of the National Assembly and first held ministerial positions under President Charles de Gaulle.

As education minister, Savary proposed a bill in 1984 that attempted to institute President Francois Mitterrand's campaign promise to revamp the nation's private education system.

Among other things, the reform bill gave local authorities more control over management and financing of private, predominantly Roman Catholic schools, where nearly 16% of France's 12 million children are educated.

The Savary Law inflamed passions for months. Opponents thought it threatened the basic right to choose how to educate their children. Supporters wished to hold Mitterrand to his election promise of creating "a unified, secular public education service."

A daylong demonstration against the bill drew at least 1.5 million people to the capital on June 24, 1984.

Pierre Mauroy, premier at the time of the Savary Law controversy, said the reforms had been "totally misunderstood," but the Socialists, who long opposed private schools, withdrew the bill.

The controversy caused a government reshuffle in which Savary resigned. He was replaced by Jean Pierre Chevenment.

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