Hope for troubled school yet, despite funding cut

Hope for troubled school yet, despite funding cut

The Islamic School of Canberra is expected to remain open through next term despite a $1.1m cut in recurrent Federal funding taking effect today.

The school was recently granted an extension until 26 April to apply for a review of the Federal Government’s decision to end its funding.

There were concerns the school would be forced to close, but ACT Education Minister, Shane Rattenbury, told the ABC he expected the school would open for term two.

“The Islamic School has indicated to the ACT Government that they intend to remain open until the end of this year,” Rattenbury said.

“Then beyond that they have sought registration through to 2021. We are operating on the basis that they assure us they have enough funds to continue.”

However, the Minister added that the Department would need to work closely with the school to verify this claim.

“The withdrawal of Commonwealth funding of $1.1m a year is obviously very significant, but if the school is able to identify a way to replace that funding and remain financially viable then there is no reason they shouldn't continue in the ACT.”

While the funding cut is a major blow to the school, the ACT Government's $400,000 in annual funding is set to continue.

“The Federal Government has different assessment criteria to the ACT Government. Our primary concern is financial viability and good governance,” Rattenbury said, adding the Federal Government had “other issues”.

“At this stage I am confident the school is spending the ACT Government's money appropriately.”

There is also cautious optimism over the fate of another Islamic school which has had its funding revoked.

Last week, the Federal Government’s internal review found that Malek Fahd – Australia’s largest Muslim school with 2,400 students and 30 staff – had failed to justify ongoing funding by the Commonwealth.

The decision followed a Federal Government audit which found governance and financial mismanagement issues at the six schools run by the nation’s peak Muslim body, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC).

However, AFIC lawyer, Rick Mitry, told AAP last week that he was confident the school had money to operate until the end of the year and would not close down any time soon.

“It's not the end of the day by any stretch of the imagination,” he said, adding parents and students should not be concerned.

“The future still looks good.”