Minneapolis teachers gave 61 percent approval in a referendum to joining the state-backed Q comp alternative teacher pay plan, and the district has changed its tune on whether that meets the required threshold.

Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson told the school board in mid-August that 70 percent approval from teachers was necessary for the plan to go ahead.  But the district said Tuesday that it was wrong and the threshold is only a majority.

If that's correct, and the Minnesota Department of Education was not immediately available to clarify the required threshold, then Minneapolis teachers have voted to join a pay scheme that the St. Paul's teachers rejected last month in bargaining there.

Regardless, the Minneapolis vote shows slippage in support for Q comp from 2006, when 66 percent of teachers voted for joining the pay plan.  However, that never happened because the district and union pulled back their proposal in 2009 for more work on how to evaluate teachers.

The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers said 1,537 teachers voted, which would represent just 51.6 percent of the teacher workforce the district lists on its website.

The Q comp plan would bring about $9 million in added funding to the district, assuming the district uses its full additional level authority to match a large dollop of state aid.

More than half of that would go for planning and training time for teachers during their duty day; one key feature of that is time for education aides to plan jointly with the teachers with whom they work.
Another hunk — about $2.8 million — would subsidize the teacher evaluation scheme the district began last year. The third large chunk of more than $1.2 million would provide small stipends to hundreds of teachers for taking on academic leadership roles in their schools.

The plan does pay teachers a token amount for performance, but that's limited to a maximum of $3 per teacher per year, a concession to teacher union opposition to paying for performance. Performance-based pay was a key goal of former Gov. Tim Pawlenty in proposing Q comp.