Financial Questions About New Islamic School

Several financial issues surround the application of Canberra Muslim Youth Inc (CMY) for a new Islamic school in Belconnen/Gungahlin in the ACT. There are a lot of questions that need answers.

A spokesman for CMY stated in The Canberra Times that it had applied for the temporary location of the school on the site of the closed Spence primary school is because it has been unable to secure land in Gungahlin for the school. It is quite amazing that it cannot find land in a new developing area. The central question is why not.

The application for in-principle approval of the school (dated February 2012) stated that CMY had begun discussions for a site with private estate providers, the Land Development Authority and the ACT Planning and Land Authority. So, after over 18 months CMY still has not found a site.

A brief on the application by the Planning and Performance Branch of the Directorate of Education and Training stated that the Directorate was informed by the Economic Development Directorate (EDD) that there are limited suitable zoned sites in Belconnen but a site adjacent to the playing fields in Gungahlin was possible.

It is possible that CMY has been unable to assure the EDD of its financial capacity to develop a new site. In order to obtain a site from EDD, it is a requirement that the applicant provide evidence of financial capacity to develop a site (or refurbish a surplus government site).

If CMY has been unable to provide evidence of financial capacity to develop a site it raises an interesting question for the panel appointed by the Minister to report on provisional registration of the school. One of the criteria of the Education Act for provisional registration of a school is that it is financially viable. It is difficult to understand how a school can demonstrate financial viability when it does not have a permanent site or building.

There are also questions about the financial arrangements between the ACT Government and CMY regarding the temporary location of the school on the Spence site. Will CMY purchase the demountable(s) or will it be rented from the Government and, if so, at what price? Will CMY arrange and pay for installation of the demountable(s) on the site or will it be done by the Government?

These unanswered questions are yet another indication that the the decision of the ACT Minister of Education to give in-principle approval for the new school before it had a permanent site was premature.

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