FIRST ON FOX: Iowa GOP Sen. Joni Ernst has penned a bipartisan letter with fellow senators to the Biden administration expressing concern that farmers and their families are being subjected to significant financial harm by a lengthy delay in updating the process of applying for college financial aid.
“We write to express continued concern with the impact the delayed Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) rollout will have for students and families, in particular those from family farm and small business backgrounds,” Ernst and 13 other senators, including Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, wrote to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona this week.
“The FAFSA Simplification Act was signed into law on December 27, 2020, and yet the Department of Education (Ed) released an incomplete and confusing ‘soft launch’ of the new form exactly three months delayed from the typical October 1 release date,” the letter continued. “In addition, Ed announced on January 30, Institutional Student Information Records (ISIRs) would not be sent to colleges and universities until early March. This creates an untenable timeline for students to review aid offers and compare their school options, with schools already pushing aid offers back to late April or early May.”
The senators wrote that Question 22 on the FAFSA form, related to student assets, requires “each student report the net worth of their family’s businesses or for-profit agricultural operations,” which the senators say doesn’t take into account the financial complexities of operating a farm.
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“This question fundamentally misunderstands how farm families operate, as the stream of revenue for crops and livestock varies significantly year-over-year, and assets cannot be cashed out to support a loan in the same capacity as traditional investments,” the letter states.
“As defined by Ed, these reported assets may include, ‘fair market value of land, buildings, livestock, unharvested crops, and machinery.’ These assets can range well into the millions of dollars, with the price of a combine harvester alone often exceeding $400,000. This, in combination with projected declines in revenue for nearly every agricultural sector for 2023 harvest, indicates Ed lacked critical insight needed to develop this asset reporting requirement.”
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The senators say that a farming family with a $60,000 annual income and $1 million in farming assets was previously paying $7,626 annually toward their child’s tuition and that under the new formula, that same family would have to pay up to $41,056.
“In this economy, asking Iowa farm families to pay five times more to send their kids to college is a nonstarter,” Ernst told Fox News Digital.
“As a farm kid myself and a recipient of a Pell Grant, I understand how critical federal student aid can be for Iowans. That’s why I’m leading the charge to force Biden’s Department of Ed to reevaluate their FAFSA form and ensure folks of all backgrounds can pursue higher education if they choose to do so. Rural students will not be pushed to the side and ignored under my watch.”
The letter asks who the Department of Education consulted in the farming community about the regulation and whether a discussion took place about how it would impact families.
“How should families reasonably calculate the value of their family farm holdings i.e., recent appraisals, commensurate value?” the senators asked. “Given that Ed has not provided guidance on a number of important questions involving farm assets.”
The senators also asked the Department of Education if it will “conduct an in-depth impact analysis of data throughout the 2024-2025 application process to understand the year-over-year impact of transitioning from the EFC formula to SAI formula?”
Ernst was joined on the letter by Sens. John Tester, D-Mont.; Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Pete Ricketts, R-Neb.; Thom Tillis, R-N.C.; James Risch, R-Idaho; Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss.; Deb Fisher, R-Neb.; Roger Marshall, R-Kan.; Roger Wicker, R-Miss.; Mike Crapo, R-Idaho; John Boozman, R-Ark.; Kevin Cramer, R-N.D.; and John Hoeven, R-N.D.
Earlier this month, Ernst and Grassley released a factsheet in a press release that explained how the Education Department’s delayed rollout of the streamlined FAFSA system has made it more difficult for students to apply to school and could send the financial contributions of farming families “skyrocketing.”
“Prospective college students and their families ought to have ready access to their financial aid offerings. But this year’s FAFSA launch has created more headaches than it’s helped,” Grassley said. “Senator Ernst and I will continue working with the Department of Education to iron out wrinkles in the new FAFSA, so that when the time comes for young Iowans to choose their college, they’ll have the financial information they need.”
The Department of Education did not respond to a request for comment from Fox News Digital.
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From playing days to new Lions coaching job, Deshea Townsend has long admired DC Glenn
Indianapolis — One of the most common questions prospects face from media at the NFL Scouting Combine is which players they model their games after. It provides a simplified scope in which to view a player’s skill set and potential scheme fit.
When Deshea Townsend was entering the league as a defensive back 25 years ago, he wasn’t studying Deion Sanders. That’s not who Townsend saw when he looked in the mirror, and there was no use pretending that’s who he could become. He needed someone who looked like him and played like him to better sense how he could perform at the next level.
The man he kept turning to was Aaron Glenn.
Admiration was mostly from afar, but in one instance, it grew up-close and personal. In a game against the Houston Texans in 2002, Townsend’s Steelers limited the opposition to 47 yards of total offense. That would be good enough for an easy win 99% of the time, but the Texans won the game handily, thanks to a pair of interception returns for touchdowns by Glenn.
Townsend would go on to put together a meaningful career of his own, playing more than a decade with the Steelers, where he won a pair of Super Bowls. Today, his continued admiration for Glenn has led Townsend to Detroit, where he’ll serve on the coordinator’s defensive staff as the Detroit Lions’ secondary coach and pass-game coordinator.
“He’s gonna be able to deliver exactly what AG wants on the back end,” Lions head coach Dan Campbell said this week.
Finding the right secondary coach has proven problematic for Detroit. They thought they had their guy in Aubrey Pleasant, but the relationship didn’t last two seasons. And Dre Bly, brought on board last year, was let go earlier this offseason. Up next is Townsend, who has eight years of experience coaching defensive backs in the NFL, including the last two with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
He only joined the team last week, so he hasn’t fully processed the players he’s inheriting. But his room is due for something of an overhaul, particularly at cornerback. With that in mind, the Lions have wasted little time putting him to work evaluating prospects for the upcoming draft as well as soon-to-be free agents.
Townsend’s philosophies are simple. He’s quick to point out there are only five core coverages, and he only has one non-negotiable.
“If you won’t tackle, you won’t play,” Townsend said. “That’s it. If it’s on the tape you won’t tackle, you can’t play. Ultimately, I’m just looking for guys that don’t shy away from contact, that’s willing to throw it there.”
Of course, he’s also looking for guys who can be sticky in coverage and mentally tough, but it all starts with physicality. From there, he’ll seek to foster a culture of camaraderie in the back end of Detroit’s defense. He wants accomplishments and failures to be shared experiences.
“I’m a big believer in we’re all in this together,” Townsend said. “So if you get a pass caught on your (watch), it’s just like I got a pass caught on me. I’ve been saying it for years, when one player makes a play, we all make a play. I think that’s how we have to be. …I think that’s what our unit is going to be. We’re going to play together. We’re going to play for one another. That’s what it should be about.”
The approach certainly worked in Pittsburgh, which long has been viewed as the league’s gold standard for culture. Townsend will try to bring some of what he learned under the tutelage of coaches Bill Cowher, Mike Tomlin and Dick LeBeau to Detroit.
“It’s just the mindset of being a champion,” Townsend said. “Can you be consistent? That’s the one thing that always helps. If you going to be any organization that’s trying to win it’s going to be similar. It’s similar paths to being a champion and being the best and being consistent. I think we see a lot of things the same way (in Detroit).”
Bucks vs. Hornets NBA expert prediction and odds for Thursday, Feb. 29 (Milwaukee's defense dominates Charlotte)
Heading into the All-Star break, Milwaukee’s struggles since making a head-coaching change garnered a lot of headlines as the Bucks went 3-7 under Doc Rivers. Milwaukee has started the second half hot, though, with three consecutive wins – two on the road – and will look to keep that momentum in its third matchup with Charlotte in less than three weeks.
These two teams played on Tuesday, with Milwaukee cruising to a 38-point win. The Hornets have still won five of their last seven. Can they hang as double-digit underdogs Thursday night at Spectrum Center?
Here’s the betting preview for the matchup with a best bet.
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Damian Lillard: The eight-time NBA All-Star was held under 20 points in three of the final six games leading up to the All-Star Break but has come back on fire. In three games since the break, Lillard has scored 68 points and has shot 16-of-29 over the last two contests. Lillard flirted with a triple-double in all three games, averaging 22.6 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 8.6 assists in that stretch.
Brandon Miller: Charlotte is in full-on rebuild mode and Miller, the No. 2 overall pick in last year’s draft, is a key piece of the Hornets’ future. The Alabama product is averaging 16.5 points per game. He started February (20 points per game this month) hot but has been held under 18 points in four straight games since the All-Star Break and is shooting just 24-of-62 from the field in that stretch.
The Bucks’ confidence is at an all-time high since Rivers was named the new head coach and Milwaukee should have no problem bullying Charlotte for the second time in three days and third time this month.
Milwaukee held Charlotte under 90 points in both meetings and the Hornets’ offense, which is No. 28 in scoring (107.7 points per game) and efficiency, hasn’t been able to buy a bucket. In the two matchups this month, the Bucks held the Hornets to just 35.6% shooting (57-of-160) from the field and just 26% (18-of-69) from 3-point range.
Those numbers reflect season-long struggles from Charlotte (No. 27 in shooting percentage and made field goals per game) and Milwaukee’s defense can take advantage. The Bucks have held opponents to 39.5% shooting over the last three games and rank 10th in the NBA in overall net ranking over the last 10 games.
Charlotte’s going to miss its shots, but the Hornets also haven’t been able to create second-chance opportunities, grabbing just 13 offensive rebounds in the last two meetings with Milwaukee. The Bucks are No. 2 in the NBA in defensive rebounds per game (34.9) and Charlotte is 24th in the NBA in second-chance points. Milwaukee’s defense sets the tone – take Charlotte to go under its team total.
Game odds update periodically and are subject to change.
Why Legislators Want to End Minneapolis 2040 Lawsuit
Backers of a lawsuit to slow down implementation of a sweeping Minneapolis 2040 land use plan have been winning in the courts.
They may be about to lose in the Legislature.
Bills filed in both the House and Senate would amend current environmental law so that it can’t be used to challenge comprehensive plans like the Minneapolis 2040 plan that seek to increase urban and suburban population density. The bills make the change retroactive to before the Minneapolis plan was approved by the City Council in 2018.
The effect would be to make the lawsuit filed in 2018 by Smart Growth Minneapolis invalid and allow the city to ask a judge to dismiss it. House File 4028 and its Senate companion SF 4183 would also clarify state law going forward and make another batch of proposed housing density bills less vulnerable to legal challenges.
Rep. Mike Howard, DFL-Richfield, chairs the House Housing Finance and Policy Committee and said the bills will “make sure the cities have the ability to plan and move forward.”
“We believe it will have support from our cities and have support from our environmental community as well,” Howard said.
The Minneapolis 2040 plan is in some ways the model behind sweeping legislation introduced this session to require many cities and suburbs to allow “missing middle” housing and multifamily apartments in commercial zones. But sponsors of those bills fear lawsuits similar to the one in Minneapolis, which cites the landmark Minnesota Environmental Rights Act (MERA). Not clarifying MERA could delay the rollout of new housing types that increase density.
The housing density bills and the proposed changes to MERA, therefore, work in tandem.
“In our reading [of the Supreme Court ruling], the court told us to fix the language, so that is our plan,” said Sen. Lindsey Port, DFL-Burnsville, who chairs the Senate housing committee. She is also a prime sponsor of the housing density bills moving through the Legislature.
“The 2040 Plan is one of the various options around the state that cities are doing to understand that we need to densify, we need more housing, we need to think about this in a different way than we did 40, 50, 70 years ago when our neighborhoods were built,” she said.
The bills to remove the threat of litigation using MERA are meant to give cities in the seven-county metro area — not just Minneapolis — assurances that plans that increase density can’t be held up in court or trigger expensive environmental studies, sponsors said.
Supporters of the lawsuit say it serves as a rescue for the city after it lost key court rulings on the Minneapolis 2040 Plan.
“Because the City has lost in the courts with its argument that the Minneapolis 2040 Plan is not subject to the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act, it is asking the Legislature to amend that Act to make it inapplicable to the 2040 Plan,” John Goetz, the president of Smart Growth Minneapolis, said in an email. He said retroactively changing laws in the midst of litigation (the lawsuit is working its way through a second round of appeals) is rare and that he isn’t sure what legal remedies the group would have should the bill become law.
The 2018 lawsuit to block the Minneapolis 2040 comprehensive plan allowing for projects to increase population density in built-out parts of the city sought to require the city to conduct a review of the environmental impacts of the changes. Smart Growth Minneapolis asserted the review was required by MERA for any project or plan that could produce negative environmental impacts.
Unlike a bill introduced last session that would have exempted comprehensive plans from MERA, the 2024 version of the bill is more narrow. It includes a set of legislative findings that increasing urban and suburban densities is “beneficial to the environment and public health.”
Under this year’s version, a comprehensive plan adopted by cities and approved by the Met Council that increases residential density is beneficial and “does not constitute conduct that causes or is likely to cause pollution, impairment or destruction” as defined by MERA. Plans that increase density are deemed to be beneficial because they can prevent sprawl into land that sequesters carbon, provides habitat and preserves farmland.
Peter Wagenius, the legislative director for the Sierra Club North Star Chapter, said many environmental groups were uncomfortable with last session’s bill that exempted comprehensive plans in their entirety from MERA. The 2024 version exempts residential density from MERA but leaves open that comprehensive plans could be challenged on other grounds.
“The court has acknowledged there’s an incongruity … in the law. We are taking that as an invitation to resolve that incongruity,” Wagenius said. While the lawsuit was against the Minneapolis plan, Wagenius said suburban cities have expressed concern that they, too, could be sued if their plans attempt to increase residential density.
“They are saying, ‘Do something about this before the lawsuits arrive,’” he said. “Will this end all bad-faith litigation against cities? No. But it will prevent some and protect them and their ability to do their jobs.” He cited plans like Burnsville’s Heart of the City development and St. Louis Park’s West End that creates downtown-like environments as examples of what some suburbs are doing to address density as well as affordability and housing supply.
In an article for the American Planning Association, Alex Schieferdecker addressed the chilling effect the ongoing litigation could have on city planning.
“If these plans are to be vulnerable to nuisance environmental lawsuits, then every city and town in the region will be forced to complete their 2050 plans while constantly looking over their shoulder and potentially compromising policy to appease their most litigious residents,” Schieferdecker wrote.
A city is obligated to update its comprehensive plan once a decade to accommodate updated population projections made by the Met Council. It is that document that guides development, and cities must make sure their zoning codes and ordinances match the plan.
Minneapolis received nationwide attention for the way its plan pushed for increased density as a way of concentrating population growth in areas already served by infrastructure, including transit. It determined that single-family neighborhoods should accommodate so-called missing middle housing such as duplexes. And multi-family housing would be allowed in corridors close to transit lines. Parking minimums were cut, and zoning changes were made in many areas to allow more development.
The Smart Growth suit asserted that if the new plan increases city population to the maximum level possible, it could degrade the environment by increasing the amount of paved surfaces that could increase the impact of stormwater runoff, by increasing the number of people straining wastewater systems, by reducing tree canopy and by increasing air pollution.
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