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Mon, July 22

Friday Catchall: Fighting robo calls, unfunded school mandates

The Friday Catchall:

• ROBO THIS! — I hate robo calls. There, I said it. I imagine you don’t exactly like them either.

I said out loud earlier this week, “Finally!” when I read about Attorney General Mark Brnovich urging the U.S. Senate to enact the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act, designed to curb illegal robocalls and spoofing.

This comes from a coalition of all 50 state attorneys general, plus the attorneys general of the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands and Guam. They are calling for federal regulators and telecom providers to take steps to combat these illegal calls, according to a news release.

It’s not small potatoes either – more than 48 billion robocalls were made in 2018, making them the No. 1 source of consumer complaints to the FTC and the FCC, and resulting in millions of dollars in consumer losses.

That’s right, losses. For example, my cell is a pay-as-you-go phone. These calls, often with local phone numbers, cost me money.

Go get ’em!

For more information, visit

• STRAINING SCHOOLS — I read with interest an article put out by the Arizona Education News Service this week about how unfunded mandates strain school budgets.

And, it could get worse.

Lawmakers’ bills requiring testing for dyslexia and giving vision and hearing screenings may be great ideas, but they are requirements that would come with no additional money for the schools. (Examples: Senate Bill 1318 from Sen. Paul Boyer – dyslexia, and SB 1456 from Sen. Sylvia Allen – hearing and vision, are advancing.)

“It could be the best mandate in the whole world, and it doesn’t change the fact that if it’s not funded, then districts have to take money away from programs and services that students are already getting,” said Chuck Essigs, director of governmental relations for Arizona Association of School Business Officials.

The first thing lawmakers should do when they consider a mandate is “determine what it’s going to cost schools to do that, otherwise you’re going to shortchange them, and they’re going to have to take money from something else,” Essigs said.

Yes, shortchange. Arizona’s per-pupil funding remains below what it was before the Great Recession – despite the partial restoration of district additional assistance, the extension of Prop. 301’s six-tenths of a cent sales tax approved by voters in 2000, voters’ approval of the Proposition 123 inflation funding lawsuit settlement in 2016, and attempts by the governor and lawmakers to help in recent years.

What this means is schools are continuing to have to do more with less. It makes no sense.

Expect school funding to be an issue, again – or until the state re-orders its priorities.

• WILDFIRE — Now beyond the government shutdown, hundreds of students and instructors from across the country will come together this weekend for the 17th annual Arizona Wildfire and Incident Management Academy at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott.

Organizers expect 868 students from 23 states to attend the academy, according to a news release.

So, don’t be surprised when you see more fire trucks, wildland vehicles, or controlled burns ahead in the Prescott area. It will likely be for the training sessions.

This sort of training keeps crews – including local firefighters – ready and poised to keep us safe. Kudos to all involved.

• PICK OF THE WEEK — (Proving there’s always something good to do in the Prescott area that’s cheap or free): This one promises to be very interesting – Arizona History Adventure: “Treating Sickness on the Frontier,” at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 9, at Sharlot Hall Museum, 415 W. Gurley St. Call 928-277-2015.

Tim Wiederaenders is the senior news editor for The Daily Courier and Prescott News Network. Follow him on Twitter @TWieds_editor. Reach him at 928-445-3333, ext. 2032, or


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