David Helfman was educated in public schools, attending elementary schools in Omaha, Nebraska and secondary schools in Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania. He earned a BS degree in economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an MS degree in collective bargaining and labor economics from Cornell University.
Helfman started his professional career at the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) in 1980. Beginning in the research department, he specialized in school finance, compensation, and bargaining support. While at PSEA he became a certified employee benefit specialist and taught college-level courses in pension theory and finance as well as group health plan administration.
When he left PSEA in 2005, he was assistant executive director for program services, responsible for the educational services/professional development, research, and communication divisions.
Helfman is now in his 13th year as MSEA executive director. He has been elected by NEA state affiliate presidents and executive directors to serve two terms as president of the National Council of State Education Associations.
Helfman lives in Anne Arundel County's Broadneck area. His wife, Karen, a clinical social worker, has her own psychotherapy practice. They have two sons; one earned a business degree from Stevenson University and the other currently attends Tel Aviv University.