INDIANAPOLIS -- Gov. Eric Holcomb on Tuesday touted the Indiana General Assembly's plan for boosting education funding by a base amount of $539 million as a "historic increase" to K-12 appropriations.

A leading House Democrat dismissed the claim, saying that the appropriations would not bring an across-the-board raise in teacher salaries and wouldn't provide all of the resources needed by schools.

The proposed state biennial budget, which faces legislative approval Wednesday, would add $763 million in new money for K-12 education, Speaker of the House Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said.

Funding could increase teacher pay over the next two years.

"As we are working on these short-term immediate needs, we're simultaneously working on a long-term plan to systemically increase teacher pay," Holcomb said.

Existing programs would receive $74 million, including the annual appropriation for non-English speaking programs growing from $17.5 million to $22.5 million. The Secured School Safety Grant Program funding would jump from $9 million to $19 million annually.

The Teacher Appreciation Grant program, used to bump up teacher pay, would increase from $30 million a year to $37.5 million annually. However, teacher pay increases are decided by local school districts, and the state increase is not a recurring budget item. Holcomb said Tuesday he'd like to find a way to make the increase sustainable.

"This budget reflects progress for education funding," Indiana State Teachers Association President Teresa Meredith said. "Thanks to educators and advocates of public schools for speaking out about the need for more education funding, the increases in this budget for public schools would be the largest in 11 years."

Still, Meredith said the battle for adequate teacher pay is far from over.

“ISTA will continue to fight for increased teacher pay and funding for every student," she said. "We will not stop until public schools are fully funded, educators get the pay and respect they deserve and that all kids – no matter their ZIP code – receive a quality public education."

Democrats noted that they had proposed a plan to guarantee ongoing teacher pay increases.

"All that we just heard from Gov. Holcomb and Speaker Bosma is that teachers will not be getting a pay raise this session," Indiana House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, said. "Despite Republican leadership claiming this is a historic increase in K-12 funding, it's clear that our traditional public schools will not receive the resources they need."

Holcomb appearance in the House chamber Tuesday was unusual for the General Assembly, which faces its last day Wednesday. The governor was flanked by six leaders for school boards and superintendent associations as well as groups representing urban, rural and suburban schools.

Association leaders had pledged early in the session that they would stand beside legislative leaders if they met objectives, including increases in Tuition Assistance Grant funds and safety grant funds, said Dennis Costerison, executive director of the Indiana Association of School Business Officials.

Asked why no teacher groups were standing nearby, Bosma said, "This group actually set reasonable goals for us. They put them in writing and said if you can reach these 10 goals, we would stand with you. I thank them for that today."

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