Dogs for Excellence

The fortune that billionaire heiress Leona Helmsley left to the dogs is now funding education reform groups.

When last we encountered billionaire hotel heiress Leona Helmsley, she had ascended to the great hotel in the sky, leaving $12 million to her beloved Maltese, Trouble. In fact Helmsely loved dogs so much that she left the bulk of her fortune, now valued at between $5-$8 billion to the care and welfare of dogs. So you might be surprised to learn that these days Mrs. Helmsley’s vast fortune isn’t going to pamper pooches at all but to—drum roll please—reform our education system. That’s right Toto. You’re on your own while the Leona M. and Harry B. Charitable Trust writes checks to the tune of millions to groups like the Stand for Children Leadership Center and, my personal favorite, Educators for Excellence.

Mrs. Helmsley might be surprised at her new found commitment to *crushing* the achievement gap and putting poor and minority students on a path to 21st achievement and prosperity—especially since the “Queen of Mean” much preferred four legged friends to the two-legged variety. (While Trouble got an annual $8,000 grooming allowance, Helmsley cut her grandchildren out of her will for failing to name any of their kids after her late husband.) But so fiercely urgent is the civil rights issue of our time that even dead people are apparently getting in on the action.

In recent months, the Helmsley Trust has given $500,000 to open a new charter high school in New York, $2,000,000 to the Stand for Children Leadership Center for a Common Core “Implementation and Public Awareness Strategy,” and $875,000 to Educators for Excellence to “advocate for teacher evaluations based on how prepared students are for college.”

Reader: I know just what you’re thinking. Tying teacher evaluations to how prepared kids are for college sounds like just the sort of grassroots cause Leona Helmsley would have been passionate about—if by grassroots you mean the stuff in which little Trouble used to relieve himself. But who are these Educators for Excellence of whom Mrs. Helmsley is so posthumously enamored?

Know for their excellence (a more accurate moniker would be Excellent Educators for Excellence), this entirely grassroots uprising of ordinary classroom teachers is totally sick of not being held accountable. That’s how they came up with a list of grassroots demands like “choice,” VAM, merit pay and ending the LIFO-liferism that produces non-excellent teachers like you. And like any grassroots teacher group, they raise money one bakesale at a time thanks to the generosity of conservative funders like the Waltons and the Helmsley Trust. Did I mention that they are hiring?

And the amazing thing is that in just one year this grassroots uprising of classroom teachers has grown into a national movement of grassroots classroom teachers leading the charge to change our education system. In fact I imagine that somewhere, not far from you, an authentic conversation like this is happening right now. Let’s listen in, shall we?

Excellent teacher 1: Know what I’ve been thinking about?
Excellent teacher 2: Does it start with ‘A’ and end with ‘Y’?
Excellent teacher 1: Holla!
Excellent teacher 2: I am like so totally sick of not being held accountable for the college readiness of my students.
Excellent teacher 1:OMG are you a mind reader??? I was just thinking the exact same thing!

Excellent teacher 2: You know what we should do? We should start a grassroots group of teachers to demand teacher evaluations that hold us accountable for whether our students are college ready!
Excellent teacher 1: OMG. That is brilliant! But wait a sec—since we’re a grassroots group of classroom teachers, how are we going to bake enough gluten-free, nut-free cupcakes, the sale of which will fund our grassroots movement?
Excellent teacher 2: Hmmmm. I guess you’re right. If only there was someone up there who believed in accountability the way that we do…
Somewhere in the distance the faint barking of a dog can be heard…

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  1. Helmsley estate also fund the Regents fellows, along with Tisch family and Gates, those corpreform educrats, many from NYC DoE, busily recasting NY State Ed along the model of DoE just as the world has begin to realize how utterly DoE has failed our schools.

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