Two of the most contentious provisions in Gov. Bob McDonnell's education reform package advanced in the General Assembly Tuesday, including a measure that allows the state to takeover failing schools.

The House voted to create a statewide school division that can help manage K-12 schools that are failing to meet state standards. If those schools continue to under-perform, the state can come in and take control.

Louisiana has operated a similar system for several years and Republicans insisted it has turned around failing schools there.

"The overwhelming majority of our schools are world-class and provide children with excellent opportunities," McDonnell said. "But in the rare instance when a school is failing, we cannot afford to maintain the status quo."

The Senate is expected to act later Tuesday on a similar bill that allows the state to take over schools.

The Senate did, however, follow the House's lead and passed a bill Tuesday that assigns an A-F grade to schools.

All 20 Senate Democrats voted against the measure, calling it a gimmick that does little to address the needs of underperforming schools.

Republicans countered that it will help parents better understand how their local schools are functioning.

Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling broke a 20-20 tie and voted in favor of the legislation.

The two bills are the most controversial of McDonnell's education passage, the bulk of which has sailed through the General Assembly with widespread bipartisan support.