The director of the Iowa Department of Education says he has never considered his job “permanent.” Education director Ted Stilwill says that allows him the freedom to “say what I need to say and do what I need to do.” Stilwill, a native of Sioux City, says he likes those terms of employment. Stilwill’s comments came after he testified yesterday before the Senate Education Committee. Stilwill must win the support of 34 senators in order to keep his job.Stilwill says he has significant responsibilities and he doesn’t have any problem with senators asking him how things are going. Some key senators do have concerns about Stilwill’s job performance. Senator Neil Schuerer (sheer’-er), a republican from Amana, says Stilwill drug his feet on reforms that Schuerer and others sought..Schuerer says he “personally believes it’s time for new leadership” in the Department of Education. Stilwill’s boss, Governor Tom Vilsack, defends Stilwill’s record. Vilsack calls Stilwill “an extraordinarily dedicated Iowan who is committed to the children of Iowa.” Vilsack says Stilwill’s always been available and responsive to Senators’ questions, and the committee didn’t need to go to this level — a confirmation hearing — to get Stilwill to appear before the panel to answer questions. Vilsack rejects republicans’ assertion that Stilwill’s agency has “dumbed down” reading tests so scores will improve.Vilsack says the allegation is “absurd” and “unsubstantiated.” He’s challenging anyone who’s “making that claim to provide the proof.” Stilwill has been Iowa Department of Education director since 1995, when he was appointed by former republican Governor Terry Branstad. He has twice won confirmation from over 34 members of the Iowa Senate. Vilsack says if republican Senators reject Stilwill. it will send the wrong message.Vilsack says “it would send the message that if you stand up for kids, you’re at risk.” If 16 senators vote against Stilwill, he will lose his job. Stilwill worked as an elementary teacher in Council Bluffs before becoming an administrator and eventually the superintendent of Council Bluffs schools. He left that job to work in the Iowa Department of Education.
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