Republican US presidential hopeful John McCain has called for improvements to the schools in black districts during a speech to civil rights group the NAACP.
Mr McCain said he wanted to drive up educational standards through the use of school vouchers for parents and performance-related pay for teachers.
Polls suggest Mr McCain's Democratic rival Barack Obama will be supported by a large majority of black voters.
Mr Obama addressed the NAACP's convention on Monday.
Mr McCain attacked Mr Obama for his unwillingness to adopt a system of school vouchers.
"[Mr Obama's policy] went over well with the teachers' union, but where does it leave families and their children who are stuck in failing schools?" he said.
"No entrenched bureaucracy or union should deny parents that choice and children that opportunity."
Under Mr McCain's proposals, money would be taken out of the state funding system and given to parents in the form of vouchers.
| || Whatever the outcome in November, Senator Obama has achieved a great thing, for himself and for his country |
Parents would then be able to use the vouchers to pay for their children to attend the school of their choice, public or private.
Mr McCain also had some words of praise for his rival, paying tribute to Mr Obama for being the first African-American ever to become a major party's presidential nominee.
"Whatever the outcome in November, Senator Obama has achieved a great thing, for himself and for his country, and I thank him for it," he told the audience.
"Don't tell him I said this, but he is an impressive fellow in many ways."
In Mr Obama's 14 July speech to the NAACP, Mr Obama dismissed criticism that he had been "too tough" on black communities while campaigning.
He told the conference that while the federal government should do more to help black Americans, they must also demand more of themselves.
"Now I know some say I've been too tough on folks about this responsibility stuff," he said. "But I'm not going to stop talking about it."
He urged black parents to provide the guidance their children needed and to do more for themselves, their families and their communities.
A CBS/New York Times poll published on 15 July indicates that Mr Obama has the support of 89% of African-American voters, compared with Mr McCain's 2%.
Published: 2008/07/16 20:06:28 GMT
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