re: Do general ed parents really want 'relief' from special education mandates?
When they went for a full inclusion policy here, the senior bureaucrats were quite frank (at least in-house) that it was for financial reasons. While providing appropriate support to kids with exceptionalities in general ed classrooms is in fact very costly, providing pseudo-support and platitudes is relatively cheap.
The move from the top was, perhaps synchronistically, aligned with a lot of pressure from parents and groups representing children with disabilities for full inclusion. I can remember a time when many parents fought to get their kids into special classes for LD, language impairment, Total Communication (for deaf kids) and so forth. Those programs had a record of long-term success in getting students caught up and capable of doing challenging academic work.
Fast forward to now.....the district stopped investing in PD for special ed teachers, most of whom nowadays have learned nothing at all about effective practices, specialized teaching curricula or methods (Orton-Gillingham, DI, Lindamood-Bell, etc. etc.) so results in special classes are no better than in general ed. No surprise there. If you aren't doing something different, why expect a different result?
OTOH, we still do have special programs for very violent kids, for kids with severe or multiple disabilities, and increasingly, for autism. To comply with the laws around least restrictive environment *some* special ed classes remain, even for LD or slow learners, but are hard to get into. That means many children who really need a segregated program may spend a number of years floundering in the full inclusion environment before any other opportunity presents itself.
At the elementary level, teachers are used to a range of development and ability -- but there are limits. If one classroom has several extremely disruptive students, or students 4-7 YEARS below the class norm, it makes effective teaching of the whole class problematic. Much teacher time is diverted to preparing individual lessons and materials for the outlier students (there is NEVER a budget for special materials for them), and these students need much more teacher attention -- which is taken away from other students. Aides also have been cut back so that often they are shared between a number of classrooms.
There are some positive effects of inclusion but the absence of the necessary supports for the learning needs of the included kids is a serious equity issue, IMO. The exceptional students are not getting the teaching theyneed, and the other students are inevitably deprived of some of the instruction -- and much of the enrichment for the high achievers -- that THEY need.
I see this as a false economy.