In Danville, those who responded to the same question voted 81 against a strike and 57 in favor, said Donda Duscherer, president of the Danville Education Association and librarian at Danville High School.
Sentiments in favor of a strike ran much higher in Lincoln County, where 147 said such action was appropriate compared to 77 who did not, and in Casey County, where 119 support a strike versus 22 who do not.
"I knew people were upset, but this clarified for me just how upset they really are," said Martha Thompson, a teacher at Liberty Elementary and a KEA liaison for Casey County. "We've tried everything politely so far and have not gotten any results. We don't know what else to do."
Results of polling in Mercer and Garrard counties, if any was conducted, were not available today.
Several scenarios under consideration
Several scenarios are under consideration, ranging from a one-day statewide strike to rotating strike days in regions around the state to an extended walk-off. Less drastic measures include face-to-face meetings between teachers and Fletcher, e-mail campaigns to legislators and public rallies.
The KEA's crisis committee is scheduled to meet at noon today in Frankfort to compile survey results from around the state and make a recommendation on what sort of protest action school employees should take. That recommendation would then go to the 32-member state KEA board, which meets at 8 p.m.
Charles Main, KEA's communications director, said this morning that statewide totals had not yet been compiled but that predictable patterns of support have emerged from Kentucky's various geographic regions.
For example, school employees in southeastern Kentucky and the Louisville area, where the labor movement has a strong foothold, are voting in favor of a strike by large margins, while support in central Kentucky, where labor unions are not as much a part of the culture, is much weaker, Main said.
"We know sentiment is very high in the southeast, where they have a history of unions in the coal mining areas," he said. "Down there, they're saying, 'A one-day action? What kind of sissy stuff is that? A strike is when you walk off the job and it isn't over until you die or you get what you want.'"
A "middle path" predicted
Main predicted that KEA will ultimately choose "a middle path" that recommends each school district pursue a course of action that its employees feel most comfortable with.
"I think a job action of some kind is unavoidable at this point," he said. "Some districts will walk off the job, but I think it will be left up to the locals to protest in a way they feel comfortable with."
Yates said that she personally feels that a "more professional approach" that involves further discussions with Fletcher and legislators and information campaigns geared toward gaining public support is the best way to go. "We're a little more cautious in central Kentucky, I think," she said. "I think we are having some successes (without having to resort to a strike)."
But for Amanda Gay, a teacher at Hustonville Elementary and president of the Lincoln County Education Association, the time for kinder, gentler tactics has passed. If school employees don't make a stand now, the best teachers, bus drivers and cooks will leave the schools for better opportunities.
"We've tried the friendlier avenues and it hasn't gotten us much so far. I think we're to the point now that if we don't do something, nothing is going to change," Gay said. "Ultimately, we're doing it for the students, because if we don't do something, we're going to lose quality teachers and classified personnel. Then who will be left at the schools?"
How they voted
KEA asked local school districts across the state to survey employees to gauge support of a statewide strike to protest Gov. Ernie Fletcher's new health insurance plan for state employees. The results of the unscientific polling for Danville, Boyle County, Casey County and Lincoln County are listed below. Results for school systems in Garrard and Mercer counties were not available.
1. Do you believe a statewide strike of school employees is the appropriate action to take on the issue of school employee health insurance?
DANVILLE: yes, 57; no, 81
BOYLE: yes, 63; no, 66
CASEY: yes, 119; no 22
LINCOLN: yes 147; no 77
2. If KEA calls for such action, will you be willing to strike for better health insurance benefits?
DANVILLE: yes 55; no 82
BOYLE: yes 60, no 78
CASEY: yes, 118, no 23
LINCOLN: yes, 177; no 47