WARREN TOWNSHIP, Ind. – Gov. Eric Holcomb is calling on lawmakers to increase state funding for K-12 education by more than $1 billion over the next two years.

Holcomb announced his proposals for the Indiana’s next two-year budget at a news conference Wednesday at a Warren Township elementary school.

“We will be promoting what we’ve identified as the single biggest dollar amount increase for K-12,” Holcomb said.

Holcomb is calling on lawmakers to approve a nearly $1.2 billion increase in tuition support for K-12 schools. He wants to see Indiana’s average teacher pay increase from nearly $56,600 a year to $60,000 annually in the next two years, he said.

Holcomb also wants to eliminate textbook and curriculum fees for all students in public and charter K-12 schools and eligible students in non-public schools.

Holcomb said the state has “the financial wherewithal” to cover the cost of textbooks.

“To do this will be meeting the spirit of the law, quite frankly,” Holcomb said, adding that Indiana is one of seven states that allows schools to charge families for textbooks.

The proposed funding increase is welcome news to superintendents like Tim Hanson of Warren Township. The district’s students pay $100 per year on average for textbooks, Hanson said.

Hiring teachers has also been a challenge, he added.

“We want to remain attractive and competitive, and obviously salary and benefits is a big way to do that,” Hanson said.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) said he’s pleased to see increased investment in schools but believes the proposal doesn’t go high enough.

“Especially when we sit in the position we sit today when we’ve got a structural surplus,” Taylor said.

There are other areas related to education where Holcomb also wants see increased spending. That includes an 8% increase in state funding for higher education over the next two years and an expansion of eligibility for the On My Way Pre-K program to assist 5,000 more families, he said.

The governor’s office will present Holcomb’s proposed budget Thursday to lawmakers on the state budget committee.