David Pickler founded the American Public Education Foundation (APEF), a pro-public education advocacy non-profit, in 2014. While serving for 12 years as Chairman of the Shelby County School Board, David used his stipends to fund a scholarship foundation. After his tenure as Chair was completed, the foundation disbanded and he transitioned the funds into APEF.

For almost a decade, APEF has been at the forefront of advocacy for public schools. The foundation has experienced various phases and focus points over the years, including organizing a nationwide National Anthem Sing-A-Long, but has now firmly fixated its efforts on two key areas: financial literacy and workforce development.

The American Public Education Foundation, guided by David’s leadership and passion for public education, shows the way when it comes to incubating, developing, and launching life-changing initiatives for our nation’s public schools. The foundation has created groundbreaking initiatives in the fields of financial literacy and workforce development: The Nation’s Report Card on Financial Literacy, the Financial Literacy Resource Library, and the West Tennessee Workforce Collaborative.


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The Nation’s Report Card on Financial Literacy is a 50-state review that points to a nation in crisis with regard to our schools’ failure to prepare and educate K-12 students in personal finance and decision-making. In 2019, APEF launched this report card under the banner “Vision 2020.” In 2022, the second edition was released and includes Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico.


The Financial Literacy Resource Library is an open-source digital library of personal finance content. In what is the first of its kind, this library is an aggregation of the best finance-related content from across the web, funneled into six categories, and is made available at no cost to every teacher, student, and parent in the country.


The West Tennessee Workforce Collaborative prepares our students for global competitiveness and gives them a roadmap for life beyond the classroom – whether that means college or a career. In 2017, when ground was being broken on the new Collierville High School, the largest high school in the state of Tennessee, David helped form Partners in Education (PIE) which served as the fundraising arm for the high school. This partnership, which established a national model for public education becoming a true partner in community development with local government and business leaders, was a transformative step for public education. David immediately got to work and helped form partnerships with the Tennessee School Boards Association (TSBA) and the Tennessee Business Roundtable (TBR), and created amazing educational opportunities. Because of David’s work with PIE, a unique feature of the new high school is an emphasis on workforce development in areas such as auto mechanics, culinary arts, welding, nursing, and technology. In addition to this PIE partnership, David convened all of the suburban principles and guidance counselors with a local steamfitters’ union to create meaningful job opportunities for students.

This workforce enterprise with Collierville High School led David to continue his tireless pursuit of creating endless opportunities for our community’s students, most notably including the West Tennessee Workforce Collaborative.

Students are developing skills, certifications, and experiences that will empower their success whether it be in college or career. Over the next 10 years, 69% of the most in-demand jobs will not require college diplomas. These innovations in workforce development and community partnerships, including the collaborative, are game-changers for our students and communities. And it’s the reason David has devoted his focus to this initiative.


Additionally, APEF partnered with BusyKid, an app that allows parents to easily teach their children about investing.

Finally, under David’s direction, was the partnership with NS4ed in 2022 to develop a career exploration curriculum for students in New Mexico. This curriculum provides robust financial literacy and workforce development lesson plans for teachers and, most importantly, will be replicated in other states in the very near future.


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