Republican presidential hopeful John McCain is calling for reform in the public education system, saying there have been decades of big promises by the public education establishment but the same poor results.

McCain spoke Wednesday in Cincinnati, Ohio, to a leading civil rights group representing the interests of black Americans - the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The veteran Arizona lawmaker said Americans have heard a lot of "tired rhetoric" about education.  He pledged that, as president, education reform would include a choice of schools for students, alternative certification for teachers, and an expansion of a federally-funded scholarship program for low income families.

He praised his opponent, Democrat Barack Obama, as an "impressive" man who has inspired many Americans, but criticized the Illinois senator for opposing vouchers that allow students from low income families to move from public schools to private ones.

Meanwhile, Obama focused on security threats of the 21st Century, telling an audience in Indiana that he would, as commander in chief, focus on countering emerging threats, such as pandemic disease and biological, cyber and nuclear threats.