Local district cites race as reason some want to leave schools

Some residents want to transfer into Valley View district.


Residents in an 8.6-square mile tract of the Jefferson Twp. Local School District are asking the state for a territory transfer to the Valley View Local School District so their kids can attend school with friends, access more extra-curricular activities and “receive a quality education,” according to paperwork filed with the Ohio Department of Education.

Jefferson Twp. school officials allege the request is motivated by “racial animus” and by the close of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, a failed online public school that closed in January. The school board says the move “certainly could be considered a tax grab” and would result in “greater racial and economic segregation” and have an “immediate impact on the financial well-being of the district.”

The land proposed for transfer runs from Dayton-Farmersville Road on the north, down Diamond Mill Road on the west, across Manning Road on the south, and then up Union Road and Liberty-Ellerton Road back to Dayton-Farmersville Road.

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“Folks who know the area know that particular section of the Jefferson Twp. School District is primarily Caucasian, while the rest of the district is primarily minority,” said Tabitha Justice, an attorney for the district. “When you look at the map of the area they’re trying to get out of, there are kids who could walk to the Jefferson (Junior/Senior) High School.”

Petitioners, in filings, said the move “will enable children of school age residing in the territory to attend Valley View in accordance with the desires (of) a majority of its residents.”

An attorney representing the petitioning residents did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The newspaper attempted to contact several of the petitioners directly using numbers found in phone books and other records, but calls Tuesday were not immediately returned.

None of the petitioners currently sends their children to Jefferson Twp. schools, Justice said in a letter to the state.

“Thus, it appears the true motive for the request arises from the recent closing of ECOT and racial animus,” Justice wrote.

About 83.4 percent of Jefferson Twp. students are minorities, primarily African Americans, according to the state filings. Similar documents from Valley View show the Germantown-area district is 95.7 percent white.

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Ohio law requires 75 percent of qualified electors within the proposed territory to request a transfer. Requests can only be made to the state before April 1 in any even-numbered year. The state board of education is required to make a determination no later than Sept. 1. A hearing may be held, but one is not yet scheduled.

In documents filed with the state, Valley View said it would have adequate facilities to accommodate any additional enrollment. Otherwise, officials for Valley View said the district isn’t advocating for or against the transfer.

“We’re just doing what we’re told by the Ohio Department of Education,” said Joe Scholler Sr., Valley View interim superintendent. Asked if he would be against the district receiving an estimated $400,000 in additional tax revenue, he said, “If that’s what happens, then that’s what happens. We’ll see what happens.”

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Justice, the Jefferson Twp. schools’ attorney, said residents in the proposed transfer territory would face a lighter tax burden in the Valley View district, something the petition does not mention.

The Ohio Supreme Court found in 2010 that evidence of school district revenue loss is a legally sufficient basis for the State Board of Education to deny a petition by the owners of that property to a different school district.

If the transfer occurred, Jefferson Twp. schools would still have a pupil population and property valuation to maintain a high school, according to documents the school board filed with the state. But the district also argues the transfer would “result in dramatically decreased revenues.” Losing the 8.6-square miles of territory would result in a $13.6 million valuation loss, approximately 14 percent of the district’s $97.4 million valuation, according to documents Jefferson Twp. schools filed with the state. The same documents show a revenue loss of about $456,552, or about 14 percent of the $3.1 combined tax revenue.

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“The cumulative effect of the valuation loss and the corresponding revenue loss will reduce the ending cash balance in fiscal year 2022 by 33 (percent), from $5.4 (million) to $3.6 (million),” treasurer Craig Jones said in the documents.

Jefferson Twp. schools told the state it would eliminate part of the district’s College Credit Plus program — which allows students to receive associate degrees while attending high school — if the transfer occurred.

“Such an act would literally eradicate tremendous opportunities for our students, and thus reducing post-secondary college and career options,” the schools told the state. “It is both disgraceful and shameful that those who are most at risk in our society may be denied the opportunity to improve life chances for themselves and their families due to the racial motives of a select few.”

In 1997, the Ohio Board of Education rejected a territory transfer petition from Riverside residents seeking to leave the Dayton City Schools in favor of the Mad River Local School District. The change would have transferred five Riverside neighborhoods into the Mad River district, a loss of more than 220 students that would have disrupted the Dayton school system’s court-ordered racial balance. The Riverside residents petitioned for the transfer in 1996 on grounds that their children should be able to attend the same schools that most other Riverside children attend.

Contact this reporter at 937-259-2086 or email Will.Garbe@coxinc.com.

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