Warren Buffett's right on the money

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At the Education Nation Summit a few weeks back Warren Buffett said: "A great teacher does not get paid like a great lawyer does, compared to the average lawyer, [or] a great accountant does [compared] to the average accountant." (Check out video here; quote is at the 15:45 mark.)

Unlike other professions, lock-step salary schedules prevent outstanding teachers from being paid more. So just how does the range of teacher compensation compare to that of lawyers and accountants?  We looked at some Bureau of Labor Statistics data, and here's what we found:

For teachers nationally, the difference between the median annual wage and the 90th percentile wage is about $28,000 - $30,000, depending on whether you're an elementary or high school teacher.  For accountants the difference is a little over $45,000.  And for lawyers, it's at least $53,000—with a big caveat.  The BLS told us they can't estimate lawyers' 90th percentile wage because it's too high to calculate with their current methodology, but one can imagine just how steep the slope would be.

With some districts and states beginning to move away from salary schedules that do not consider performance, this graph could look very different—at least for those areas—in the coming year. But for now, if you want to know who the real star teachers are, don't rely on their salaries for an answer.

Ginger Moored