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C.T. Marhula, Grand Forks, Published April 25 2013

Letter: Hope Poolmans enjoy their cake

While her many friends tell me Sen. Nicole Poolman, R-Bismarck, is a great person, I did not know if I should laugh or cry when I watched her testimony against the amendment proposed by Sen. Joan Heckaman, D-New Rockford, to raise the minimum teacher salary to what many are calling a living wage.

Ms. “Let them eat cake” Poolman stated, “I, too, am a teacher, and I, too, have had the bills at the end of the month where my day care bill was higher than my salary.” Really? This is where I can’t decide whether to laugh or cry.

Poolman is married to Jim Poolman, former insurance commissioner and legislator. After their second child was born 12 years ago, in 2001, Nicole Poolman was making $25,000 in the Grand Forks school system. The Poolmans received free family health insurance, paid for by the taxpayers as part of Jim Poolman’s legislative compensation. He was also employed by a substantial financial institution. In January 2001, he began receiving a salary of $62,855 as insurance commissioner.

If the Poolmans couldn’t make ends meet on these two salaries plus benefits, it says more about why Jim Poolman left the insurance commissioner’s job for the $300,000-plus lobbying job than being a reason to oppose minimum teacher pay. Sen. Poolman currently teaches in the Bismarck system at an 80 percent contract for $36,277. The minimum 100 percent contract in Bismarck is $39,000, and Poolman would make $45,346 if she taught full time. The minimum in Bismarck is $11,500, or 42 percent above what Poolman thinks is adequate for outstate teachers. I hope they enjoy their cake.

Taxpayers and supporters of education can view her April 11 testimony on the legislative website.