Mayor Ed Murray was firing off facts about Seattle’s divided education system, with no idea that he was standing below an area of Garfield High that students call the “black balcony.” Or that the school’s “white hallway” stretched one floor above.
The selection of Garfield for a citywide education summit in April was, nonetheless, a telling choice. No other place so starkly embodies the irony of wealthy, progressive Seattle — Ground Zero for raising the minimum wage, stronghold for Bernie Sanders — presiding over a school system so undeniably segregated.
A third of the city’s white students get elite educations at private institutions, Murray noted, while a third of Seattle’s students of color attend a high-poverty school. Nearly half of all African-American and Latino students fail to graduate in four years, if at all.
“We are depriving them of the opportunity to succeed in life — we have to admit that,” the mayor said, addressing the 500 parents, educators and elected officials who had gathered for the latest attempt to focus attention on Seattle’s enduring disparities.
On paper, Garfield looks like a liberal utopia, a majestic, Federalist-style building in the center of the city with a broad mix of students and long history of academic and athletic success under Principal Ted Howard, a black man. Yet students of different races inhabit separate worlds. The school’s advanced-track classes are mostly white, as is its well-heeled parent fundraising group, and its annual crop of National Merit Scholars.
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