Cincinnati John McCain told the NAACP and some skeptical black voters Wednesday that he will expand education opportunities, partly through vouchers for low-income children to attend private school.
The likely Republican presidential nominee addressed the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the nation's oldest civil rights organization.
In greeting the group, McCain praised Democrat Barack Obama's historic campaign but said the Illinois senator is wrong to oppose school vouchers for students in failing public schools. It is time, McCain said, to use vouchers and other tools like merit pay for teachers to break from conventional thinking on educational policy.
Obama, he said, has dismissed support for private school vouchers for low-income Americans.
"All of that went over well with the teachers union, but where does it leave families and their children who are stuck in failing schools?" the Arizona senator asked. "No entrenched bureaucracy or union should deny parents that choice and children that opportunity."
In fact, Obama has spoken in favor of performance-based merit pay for individual public school teachers, even telling the National Education Association in a speech last year that the idea should be considered.
McCain received mostly polite applause in a room with some empty seats, two days after Obama's enthusiastic reception from a standing-room only audience.