Boston City Councilor John Connolly prides himself on knowing more about public education than any of his 11 opponents seeking the mayor’s office. But what good is such knowledge when Connolly descends into political pandering on school issues, as he did last week last by voting in favor of a $115 million loan order to build a new high school in Mattapan?
Boston already wastes about $8 million annually to maintain 3,000 empty high school seats. Outgoing School Superintendent Carol Johnson isn’t a whiz at facility planning. But she knew enough to give the City Council a heads-up last month via a memo on the School Department’s five-year facility plan: “We continue to have significant excess capacity in many of our high school buildings,’’ wrote Johnson, in boldface. By “excess capacity’’ Johnson meant that more than half of the seats are empty at English High, Jeremiah Burke High, Another Course to College, and Community Academy. And another handful of Boston high schools are operating with vacancy rates of 20 percent or more. If managers of commercial properties faced such vacancy rates, they’d be out on the street.