One other reason Lawrence teachers are leaving the district early: It pays well.
Lawrence teachers who've been in the district 15 years, and whose years of age and experience add up to 85, are eligible for district-funded pensions. Most of those pensions range from $7,000 to $8,000 a year.
The district's pension payments are limited to five years. The perk also includes paid health insurance for seven years.
Records show that 166 of the state's 301 school districts offer early retirement benefits. Enacted in 1981, the benefits were designed to encourage early retirements in districts with declining enrollments.
"It's an incredible benefit," said Lawrence Superintendent Randy Weseman.
Though the perk has helped the district attract top-notch teachers, it's also proven to be expensive, Weseman said, noting it costs the district about $1 million a year.
"It's supposed to pay for itself by letting you replace some of your higher-paid people with lesser-paid people," he said. "But I'm not so sure it's worked out that way."
Still, Weseman said he's in no hurry to change it.
"That's something that would have to be negotiated with the teachers and, frankly, I don't see it happening," he said.
Also, Weseman said he doesn't want to reduce the district's ability to recruit successful, mid-career teachers.
"We don't just hire pups out of the litter," he said. "We hire a lot of midcareer teachers -- it's not a case of all the 55-year-olds leaving and all the 24-year-olds coming in. We hire the best match for the job."