Sen. John McCain called for a shakeup of “failed school bureaucracies” and greater parental choice in education as he accepted the Republican presidential nomination Thursday night.
“Equal access to public education has been gained. But what is the value of access to a failing school?” Sen. McCain said at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul., Minn. “We need to shake up failed school bureaucracies with competition, empower parents with choice, remove barriers to qualified instructors, attract and reward good teachers, and help bad teachers find another line of work.”
The crowd gave those lines one of the loudest roars of approval of the nominee’s lengthy acceptance speech.
Calling education “the civil rights issue of this century,” the Arizona senator said that parents deserve to choose a new school for their children a public school “fails to meet its obligations to students.”
“And I intend to give it to them,” Sen. McCain said. “Some may choose a better public school. Some may choose a private one. Many will choose a charter school. But they will have that choice and their children will have that opportunity.”
The Republican nominee portrayed his Democratic opponent, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, as beholden to the existing school system.
“Senator Obama wants our schools to answer to unions and entrenched bureaucrats. I want schools to answer to parents and students,” Sen. McCain said. “And when I’m president, they will.”
Julie Harris, an Arkansas delegate and mother of six children, cheered as Sen. McCain delivered the education segment of his speech.
The Springdale, Ark., resident homeschools three of her children, one attends a private school, and her two teenagers take courses at a local community college instead of their neighborhood high school. They had been homeschooled as well.
“I am all for parental choice,” Ms. Harris said after the speech. “We actually have relatively few private schools in Arkansas. I really want to see more charter schools.”
“I thought he hit the nail on the head,” said Eric Happala, a Minnesota delegate and a business consultant from the town of Dassel. “I liked that he said schools should be accountable to students and parents.”
And he praised Sen. McCain’s call to expand school choice. “I think that’s really going to resonate with the African-American community,” Mr. Happala said. “They’re often the ones whose children are stuck in failing schools.”
--Mark Walsh and Alyson Klein