The above image circulated around the web earlier this week and the Cato Institute quickly debunked the claim's made by the image.
A quick account of what Cato Institute found: Drawing from data from the OECD they found that a Finnish teacher with 15 years of experience makes about $37,500 a year, nowhere near what a doctor makes. By contrast the average American teacher makes $45,000 a year (but $51,000 per year according to the BLS) ...
Yes, American teachers earn more than Finnish teachers.
How about Nevada's teachers? A teacher in the Clark County School district with 9 years experience and only a BA degree makes about $51,000 ($69,000 including benefits). A teacher with 14 years experience and a MA can be making $66,000 ($90,000 including benefits).
So no, paying teachers more money is not what makes Finnish schools better, on average, than American schools.
In fact, paying teachers more money doesn't produce better results. "Teacher Pay and Teacher Quality" by Dale Ballou and Michael Podgursky (among many others) discuss the academic research on teacher pay and results. What they, and many others find, is that paying teachers more money doesn't improve education. It only means schools pay more to recruit from the same batch of teachers. There are some very good reasons for this, including how teachers are trained, recruited and paid.
Certification doesn't matter
TEACHER TRAINING and CERTIFICATION: Most state's require teachers to attend a university and take courses on teaching pedagogy. Even if you already have a degree, it can take an individual another two years of college course work to qualify. Sometimes the requirements are very specific on how many credits of a certain course you must take.
This means quality people (economists, rocket scientists, computer scientists, business leaders) may not be "qualified" to teach. FACT: teacher certification is worthless.
TEACHER RECRUITMENT: Teacher recruitment is geared toward recent college grads with the intention of keeping them around for 20 years (pension plans are also designed to keep teachers immobile and in the profession longer than they, or we, may wish). As stated above, the teacher training process tends to exclude experienced people from other fields because the opportunity cost of attending college for another two years to earn a meaningless certification.
Eliminating teacher certification requirements would lower the barriers to entry and allow recruitment of a broader pool of talent.
TEACHER PAY: Teachers, regardless of performance (or demand for their talent) are paid the exact same. You start with a low salary and spend the next 14-15 years working toward the max pay. Again, this is conducive toward recruiting people out of college rather than recruiting experienced talent from other fields. The step-pay also means you won't be recruiting highly talented and motivated grads who can make twice as much right out of college in another profession.
Performance pay would allow you to recruit talented individuals immediately. Another way would be to identify top teachers and pay them extra for each additional student beyond some threshold. The idea there would be to get as many students under the tutelage of the very best teachers and then reward those teachers handsomely.