Juan Aparicio (University Miguel Hernandez of Elche), Laura López-Torres (University of Alcalá) and Daniel Santín (Complutense University of Madrid).

Abstract. The economic crisis forced politicians to make public finances sustainable. The education sector was one of the most adversely affected by control of public expenditure. This paper analyzes the drivers causing productivity changes of especially vulnerable public schools during the crisis. We use the Hicks-Moorsteen index, which is a seldom applied methodology that leads to feasible results under variable returns to scale. To illustrate the benefits of this index, we use a sample of 298 Catalan public primary schools between 2009 (when budgetary constraints started) and 2014. The results reveal that during the crisis schools improved their total factor productivity by raising academic achievement despite cutbacks in resources. We also found that there was a strong convergence pattern during the financial crisis, driven by the catch-up process of some schools. The findings have important policy implications, suggesting that a monitoring system should be set up for use by policy makers.