THE DECISION by the Boston schools and Boston Teachers Union to declare an impasse in their nearly two-year-long contract negotiations and have the state appoint a mediator is an acknowledgment of defeat. Negotiators should by all means keep plodding toward an agreement, but no one should expect any groundbreaking reforms. Rather, the school department should look elsewhere — to nonprofit groups outside the union — to provide desperately needed enrichment, tutoring, and extracurricular instruction.
Unfortunately, the hoped-for reforms in the teachers’ contract — a longer school day, better teacher evaluations, the dismissal of incompetent teachers — don’t lend themselves to the split-the-difference approach that mediation often involves. The union and the school department also remain more than $80 million apart on a salary package. The lack of progress is more than disheartening. It’s pathetic, and it speaks to a failure of leadership, particularly within the union.