Monday, October 22, 2012

George McGovern: A Strong Supporter of Educational Choice

George McGovern, the 1972 Democratic nominee for president and a former South Dakota senator, died yesterday at the age of 90.  A staunch liberal and outspoken opponent of the war in Vietnam, McGovern was the Democratic standard-bearer in the early 1970s. Though he lost the 1972 presidential election in a landslide to Richard Nixon, McGovern had a long career as a member of the House and later Senator from South Dakota.  In 2000, McGovern won the Medal of Freedom --the highest civilian award-- and in 2001 was appointed United Nations global ambassador on hunger.  

Those are the interesting facts and nuggets about McGovern’s life that have populated obituaries and tributes to the former presidential nominee in the past day, but little known among McGovern's causes was his support for educational choice.

In the 1970s, McGovern pushed for tuition tax credits for parents who chose to send their children to private schools, and he also supported New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s legislation to create such a program.  In fact, the 1972 Democratic Platform called for “financial aid by a Constitutional formula to children in non-public schools.”  As has been noted in recent stories on Democratic support for educational choice, this in part reflected the influence of the Catholic Church.

In September 1972, The Washington Post ran the headline: McGovern Pledges Support For Aid to Private Schools, which wrote:

CHICAGO, Sept. 19 — Sen. George McGovern, calling Roman Catholic schools a keystone of American education, pledged his support today of federal tax credits to help offset tuition costs at parochial and other “bona fide” private schools.

“We cannot abandon these schools and we will not,” the Democratic presidential candidate said here this morning before a bubbling crowd of Catholic high school students.

Without government help, he told them, their parents would lose the right to give their children an education in which spiritual and moral values play an important role.

The nation lost a life-long public servant over the weekend.  We thank George McGovern for his lifelong dedication to helping others and for always standing up for his beliefs—which included educational choice.

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MSG

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