From AP REPORTS

AUSTIN (AP) - An attempt to allow private schools into the Texas public school athletic league is dead for this legislative session, the Senate sponsor said early Thursday.

Public schools have been fending off attempts to crack open the University Interscholastic League for years. This time, a bill passed the Senate but never got a vote in the full House of Representatives before deadlines prevented it from coming up.

The session ends Monday and Sen. Dan Patrick, the Houston Republican who sponsored the measured, said the issue is dead for this session.

Patrick had argued that allowing private schools to compete in the UIL is an issue of fairness for families who pay taxes that support public schools but send their children to private schools.

Patrick said the bill was swamped under a coordinated telephone and e-mail campaign by public school superintendents and coaches against it.

Texas public schools have long sought to keep private schools out of the UIL over concerns they may be able to recruit athletes.

The bill was approved by a House committee, but not before it was changed to force any private school, even the smallest, to compete at the Class 4A level or higher. Private schools complained that would likely prevent any small private schools from wanting to join the UIL.

San Antonio's Cornerstone Christian, connected with the politically powerful Cornerstone megachurch founded by televangelist John Hagee, has been the driving force behind the latest private school move to UIL.

The school ran into trouble with TAPPS in recent years over questions about its elite basketball program that used many foreign and out-of-state players.

The private league did not renew Cornerstone's membership last fall, although Cornerstone officials insist it was not because they broke any rules.

Cornerstone, which has about 160 students, has filed a separate federal lawsuit against the UIL claiming religious discrimination.

Texas is one of three states with separate athletic championships for public and private schools. The UIL has about 1,300 members. The Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, or TAPPS, has about 250 members.