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Senate Budget Blueprint Thin on Education Policy, Funding Details

Senate Republicans unveiled their fiscal year 2016 budget proposal Wednesday afternoon—and, similar to the one released yesterday by their GOP colleagues in the House, it's short on education specifics.

Like the House budget proposal, the Senate's would fund the federal government to the tune of $493 billion, keeping in place the across-the-board spending caps, known as the sequester, to which the president's proposed budget does not adhere. And, like the House plan, it would make even steeper cuts for non-defense discretionary funding beginning fiscal 2017.

Also similar to the House plan, the Senate's would balance the budget over a period of 10 years, mainly by streamlining duplicative programs and eliminating those that are ineffective or for which the authorization has expired.

Whereas the House budget proposal asks each of the chamber's committees to identify and recommend $1 billion in funding cuts for programs from fiscal 2016 through fiscal 2025, the Senate's plan only asks the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee and the Finance Committee to do so.

The legislative text of the Senate plan, drafted by budget committee Chairman Michael Enzi, R-Wyo., is much more focused on curbing costs across the federal government than outlining how it would accomplish that within various policy areas. It does not provide agency-by-agency figures.

However, it provides some specificity on two K-12-related policies. Additional federal dollars could be directed at programs that protect children from sexual predators in schools, so long as that additional funding does not raise new revenue or increase the deficit. The same goes for programs that improve community health centers.

And while both chambers' budget proposals would repeal Obamacare, Enzi's spending blueprint doesn't include as many partisan policy riders as the House's. That strategy is sure to help his colleagues who face difficult 2016 re-election battles to avoid tough votes, and also is potentially a nod to his past as chairman of the HELP Committee.

Still, the funding proposal is light years away from the President Barack Obama's budget plan, which includes a total of $70.7 billion in discretionary spending for the U.S. Department of Education alone, an increase of $3.6 billion, or a 5.4 percent hike over 2015 levels.

With both chambers' budget proposals adhering to the sequester caps, it will make it all but impossible for the administration to obtain any of the funding increases it's seeking, including the additional $1 billion for Title I for low-income students, increased funding for early-childhood education, and any money for its new community-college proposal.

On Wednesday, the House Budget Committee began debating and marking up its spending bill, a process that's expected to go until about midnight. (You can watch here.) Later this afternoon, the Senate Budget Committee will begin the same lengthy process. (You can watch here.)

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