Amanda Batten is the Republican candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates District 96. Her name will appear on the ballot on Nov. 2.
Candidate: Amanda Batten
Race: Virginia House of Delegates District 96
Biography: Del. Amanda Batten represents the 96th District in the Virginia House of Delegates. Elected in 2019, Batten is a member of the House Education Committee and the House Public Safety Committee. She also serves on the Aerospace Advisory Council. Prior to her election, she worked as a legislative aide for members of the Virginia General Assembly, as well as for the Medical Society of Virginia.
Batten is currently a member of the James City County Ruritans and a board member of the Virginia Symphony Society. Previously, Batten served on the board of the Thomas Nelson Community College Educational Foundation and as president of the Providence Classical School Board. A graduate of Ashford University, Batten has also completed the University of Virginia’s Sorensen Political Leaders Program and the Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance’s LEAD Historic Triangle program. Batten resides in Toano with her husband, Rick. Her son, Troy, is an engineering major at Virginia Tech.
Why should Virginians re-elect you to the Virginia House of Delegates?
Having been elected prior to the pandemic, I understand firsthand the dramatic shift in constituent priorities and needs. Issues highlighted and debated in 2019 and early 2020 have been eclipsed by the tyranny of the urgent. The constituent feedback I’ve received allows me to identify and tackle the challenges most relevant to the citizens of the 96th District.
What do you hope to accomplish, if elected?
As a member of the House Education Committee, I am deeply concerned by the magnitude of pandemic related learning loss. Based on studies of the correlation between education level and lifetime earnings, the academic declines are likely to adversely affect young people for the remainder of their lives. This learning loss comes on the heels of stagnated academic progress and accompanies the rise of a politicized environment. As a member of the House Education Committee, I support policies to restore “back to basics” curriculum in all schools. Ensuring that students can read and comprehend at an appropriate grade level is my top priority. Functional literacy is absolutely essential to a functional society.
What is the most important issue facing your district, and what is your position on it?
The labor shortage is a critical issue within the 96th District. While many suspected the enhanced unemployment benefit prevented people from seeking work, I do not believe the benefit was entirely to blame. Disruptions in school calendars, concerns about COVID-19 transmission, and low pay for tedious jobs remain hurdles in filling many roles.
I believe Virginia must ensure that state-funded positions offer competitive pay and benefits. Virginia also needs to take a look at state agency expenditures to ensure that front-line services — such as transportation to school, reliable public school instruction, and law enforcement services — receive preferred funding over purely administrative roles. Top heavy organizations may need to restructure to ensure that critical services are being delivered.
What is your position on Virginia’s overall response to the coronavirus pandemic, and what might you have done differently?
The Commonwealth failed abysmally in responding to the fundamental needs of Virginians:
- Citizens faced with abrupt job losses were unable to collect timely unemployment benefits, a situation so dire that the federal government filed suit against the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC). I would have devoted all possible resources — including transferring employees from other state agencies (particularly those shut down in the wake of the virus) — to ensure a prompt response to Virginians.
- Students suffered dramatic learning loss and struggled with the isolation of virtual reality. Minority, disabled, and socioeconomically disadvantaged students displayed unacceptable academic declines that will have lifelong repercussions. I would have allocated resources, specifically designated tax credits, to allow parents flexibility in procuring the tools to help their children.
- Virginia failed to effectively distribute vaccines at the onset of availability. While vaccines are now widely available, the Commonwealth needs to carefully analyze the system’s flaws to prevent future debacles. Other states excelled in distribution, often by utilizing private pharmacies and providers who had personal relationships and knowledge of patients. In all cases, I would have looked to adopt best practices from other states who showed leadership in these areas.
What are the top three issues created by the coronavirus pandemic in your district, and how would you plan to address them?
- Same as item “1” above.
- Same as item “2” above.
- One of the most frequent complaints from individuals, businesses, and local governments was frustration with the ambiguous and seemingly arbitrary executive orders and mandates from the health commissioner. Obtaining accurate information about these orders was extremely difficult for both private citizens and legislators. To prevent any such future occurrences, I support the legislation requiring General Assembly approval for the long-term extension of executive orders (Senate Bill 5001; 2020 Special Session 1). Likewise, I support legislation requiring Board of Health approval for long-term extension of emergency health orders (Senate Bill 5025; 2020 Special Session 1). This nonpartisan policy holds legislators accountable to Virginians and allows for direct citizen input on emergency measures.