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It has been 10 years since Alabama's last statewide bond issue for capital improvements in schools. Perhaps that is why Gov. Fob James Jr. got more scrutiny than he bargained for after he apparently spoke in favor of a bond issue for K-12 education, only to back off a week later.

"The utterance of 'bond issue,' I later discovered, is like hollering 'fire' in a crowded theater," Mr. James told the House Ways and Means Committee this month.

The flap began Feb. 25, at the annual meeting of the Alabama Press Association, when Mr. James said about poor school facilities: "We will go around this state and find those physical facilities, and we'll send somebody down there who knows what it costs to fix them....And we'll float a 300 [million] or half-a-billion-dollar bond issue and put the money right on the target to fix it. We've got the money to do that in the [education trust fund]."

On March 3, Mr. James said on a radio call-in show: "No, no, I didn't propose a bond issue. The question was asked to me, could the revenue growth in [the trust fund] support a bond issue, and I said, 'Yes, financially it could support a bond issue between $300 [million] and $500 million as a matter of arithmetic.' "

Later, a gubernatorial aide told reporters that there is not expected to be enough growth in the fund to pay for a bond without raising taxes--which Mr. James has said he would not do.

The Governor "has not taken away his support of school bonds," his press secretary said last week in a letter distributed to reporters. "He has a bond issue as a future option he is not exercising at the present time."

Should schoolchildren be prodded into patriotism? And should the taxpayers pay for it?

Those are the questions North Carolina lawmakers will weigh this week as they debate a bill that would put the Stars and Stripes in every classroom and require a morning recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Ken J. Miller, the bill's sponsor, said that when veterans' groups tack up a donated flag, "the principals and O.B.E. people and the like are pulling them down," apparently referring to backers of outcomes-based education.

Opponents say the idea would violate a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that students cannot be forced to recite the pledge.

They also say it could cost more than $4 million. "Some idiot, liberal Democrat said that a flag costs $100," Mr. Miller said, a price that he said represents at least a $90 markup.

--Millicent Lawton & Drew Lindsay

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